The Evolution of Thanksgiving: Displaced Gratefulness to "Thankfully Giving"

unsplash:  pro-church media
Maybe it's just me, but the older I get, the more meaning Thanksgiving has.

As a child, I am fairly certain I whined my way through the Thanksgiving meal, disliking much of the food presented and complained of the ultimate holiday boredom.

As a college kid, I thought of Thanksgiving as the premiere time to come home, be adult-like showing all the ways college had changed me, hanging out with old friends who thought being 21 was the climax of life, and inevitably, sleeping off too much vodka from the night before.  Total shame here.

Clearly my gratefulness was displaced. 

Then newly-married life came.  I finally grew up a little and would bring my assigned dish, enjoy the meal and company of family, but since I was now a "working girl," I opted to lounge, nap, and relax which meant my parents were still doing the majority of Thanksgiving prep and clean up.

Clearly I was still only thinking about how the holiday would benefit me. 

Then came kids.  They really change everything, don't they?  I began to show a bit more gratitude, offering to bring dishes and help out by not expecting Thanksgiving to be provided solely by my parents.  It's like it finally clicked that Thanksgiving wasn't just about me.

We began hosting at our house, helping with pre and post festivities while genuinely enjoying all things family related.  Thanksgiving was no longer boring "because everything was closed and Taco Bell sounded so much better than leftovers."  Instead, that time with family became so precious.  So life-giving.

I finally realized that Thanksgiving isn't just about the food or the pilgrims or the Mayflower or the relaxation.  It's about the Heart.  The Unity.  The Young.

Preparing the Heart. 

As the holiday approaches, we begin preparing our hearts with gratefulness for our loved ones, our blessings, and even our sorrows.  Whether it has been a year of trials or a year of goodness, there is always, always, something to be thankful for.  We don’t just prepare in gratitude, but we also prepare our hearts for "giving" to others.  Thanks-“giving” is a day set aside to serve one another, give to those who need, open our hearts for second chances, reunite those who have fallen apart.

Gathering in Unity. 

What a blessing it is in itself to have the ability gather. We come together as one: one family, one community, one country to celebrate the joys of Thanksgiving.  We open our doors when we might normally not, we allow people in, we gather for reconciliation, for celebration, to restore hope and magic and meaning. We gather to create rejuvenating, life-giving fellowship and we gather to hold those who are fragile.

Teaching The Young. 

Through Thanksgiving we are given the opportunity to teach this unity, this gathering, this preparation of the heart through our actions.  We are able to show our children that despite all of the challenges, all the joy, all the trials, all the success, all the heartache, all the praises that the year presented, we are truly thankful to the one who gave them to us.  Our children's ears are open on Thanksgiving, soaking in our family's memories, preparing to share them to their future family's, learning how to give to others and thank others.

While I never really appreciated Thanksgiving for it's intended purpose, my oldest daughter always has.

Thanksgiving is in her soul.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, a little before 6 am, roughly an hour before her usual wake up time, she woke up looking forward to what she called "the family feast day."

Upon walking downstairs and seeing our very simply set Thanksgiving table, she sighed a whisper of, "I love it, mama," accompanied by a smile full of excitement.

Moments later, she was sitting silently, undoubtedly dreaming of the fun that awaits her today.

For this one, Thanksgiving has little to do with food and everything to do with the family and good company.

May her priorities always be to focus on the ones around her and the gifts of joy each one of them brings her heart.

"We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.  We recount your wondrous deeds."  Psalm 75:1

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