Here is my column in today’s Greenville News

Thanksgiving reflects simple comforts, pleasures

So much of what we do comes down to Thanksgiving. Not that I’m some sort of Thanksgiving nut, mind you. In fact, this is the first year in some time when I haven’t been scheduled to work in the ER on Thanksgiving. I eat, I go to work. (Where of course, I eat again until I need to check in to decide if I’m having turkey toxicity or a heart attack!)

I love the holiday, it’s true. But I love it because it’s a time of family. We usually have around 35 people in attendance, and we eat on every conceivable surface, sitting in chairs, on the floor, in the living room and everywhere else. We’d eat on the dog’s back if it held still long enough.

It’s chaos, with small children and teens, friends and family all talking and laughing and occasionally arguing over politics. It bears little resemblance to the beautiful portrait of Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell, where everyone sits round a perfectly arranged table (admittedly, laughing), with father in a suit. But I think Norm (can I call him that?) would approve. Because he understood the value of common things.

Thanksgiving, with it’s Turkey and dressing, cranberries (canned for some, fresh for others), potatoes (mashed for most, cubed for one), it’s varied deserts from pumpkin pie to coffee cake, reflects simple comforts and pleasures.

Do we over-do it in America today? Probably. We eat too much and buy too much and use Thanksgiving as the holiday catapult with which to launch ourselves immediately into the mad fray of Christmas. But ultimately, we have a good idea. We love it not because it is large and over-blown, but because at it’s heart it’s a meal we share with those we love.

But then, isn’t most of what we do the same? If we are good and wise and if we love, then we work to provide food and shelter, for this time and for the future. We engage in science to help us live better, live safer, live longer, travel further and faster, communicate more effectively. We defend our nation so that others will not rob them of freedom, of life, of comforts. We practice medicine to return the sick to their families, whole; or if not, at least with some comfort. We preach because we seek to make this life bearable and the next life a certainty for all.

Yes, there are always those who seek the stars; who seek power, money and influence. But in the end, they will want homes among the stars, with dinner and loved ones. Some will use their power and money for comforts, at least for the ones they love best, and often for total strangers; so that others can have homes and food and gentle times together.

Most of our efforts are aimed, ultimately, at simpler things than we ever imagine. Thanksgiving is a time when we celebrate the smallest of things in a large way; things that our ancestors would have understood and that our descendents will doubtless comprehend.

It’s a time when we simply revel in one another, in husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, children, cousins, aunts and uncles, old friends and new and all the rest. At Thanksgiving people want to volunteer to give meals to others; because we recognize the mystery and relevance of such a simple comfort; the power of warmth, food and drink to chase away trouble and lift us up.

Ultimately, it bears similarity to communion. It is a kind of national sacrament, if I can say so without sacrilege. Whether one is a secularist or believer, we come to the table in remembrance of blessings past and in hope of blessings to come. We come to the table to enjoy the moment, not knowing the future but mindful of what we endured over the past year.

We come to the great American sacrament of Thanksgiving to offer gratitude to God for things elemental. When Jesus, who loved food, taught us to pray, he said ‘Give us this day our daily bread…’ He asked us to be mindful not only of spiritual things but of common, tangible ones. This God-man who, at his resurrection was found cooking fish at the beach.

He sure would have enjoyed Thanksgiving. Because He taught us what we recognize each year at this time, in a distant shadow of Easter. That a shared meal, simple or lavish, has a holiness, a sanctification, far beyond mere food.

0 0 votes
Article Rating