November 2021 Connection

Canned Thanksgiving

If you’ve sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner before, you’ve probably been exposed to the activity of going around the table to name something for which you are thankful. As a kid, we’d do this with our little family of four, along with any immediate relatives who happened to travel in that year. As the youngest in the family, it was always up to me to go first. I’m not sure if this was a privilege extended to me as if I’d won some form for family lottery that I wasn’t aware of, or if it was just everyone else’s way of making sure that they had a few extra seconds to come up with something that they were (1) willing to share out loud, and (2) would make them look extra thankful! But there I was with not one moment to prepare: “Brian, what are you thankful for?”
 
I don’t recall what my answers were, but I suspect it was probably something as profound as “family” or “my friends.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that those topics of gratitude are any less deserving of being named, but they felt so canned! It’s like asking a kid what they’re favorite part of school is and they answer, “recess!” It’s true, I’m sure, but we were looking for something a bit more…original.
 
And so, I’d blurt out my answer, “family,” only to be outdone by the next answer that recalled the memorable family trip from earlier that summer! Constantly being outdone in my gratitude, I was determined one day to have a big family so that I could be the last one to express my thanksgiving at the Thanksgiving table and bring the masses to tears with my thoughtful response!
 
Do you see the twist coming?
 
Now, as the adult and parent, I am oldest in our household (by 3 months, mind you). It’s MY turn to look on as others nervously name their thanksgiving, all the while knowing that I’d be the last to go with the most touching, creative answer! I look around the table as our kids, one by one, name what they’re thankful for, and then, finally, it’s my turn. My answer: “Family.”
 
After 30 years of waiting for the opportunity to come up with a blow-‘em-out-of-the-water answer, and I come up with the same canned answer that I did when I was young enough to still need an apron to eat a decidedly “messy” dinner. What gives!?
 
What I think happened was this: the answer of “family” or “friends” – or any answer that might feel canned – was never really just a rote answer, but was instead an answer I didn’t fully understand until I grew older. “Family” was and is a perfectly good answer to the question, what are you thankful for? I just didn’t know it yet.
 
This November, or whenever you’re able to join others for a Thanksgiving dinner, remember that gratitude is not about outdoing one another in our thanksgiving, but seeing the value and meaning in the things that might otherwise go unnoticed.
 
What are you thankful for?
 
~Pastor Brian
 
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