This week provides us with some powerful, teachable moments. How we choose to celebrate Thanksgiving will send a long-lasting reminder to subsequent generations about who we are as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation.
The heart-growing moment for the Grinch came when the Whos of Whoville came together to celebrate Christmas, even though he had stolen their celebration. With no presents, no trees, no decorations, no feast, they still held hands with one another and joyously sang.
The opportunity to come together on Thanksgiving is the opportunity to give thanks to God—and there are many things for which we can be thankful. I have a friend who has been working tirelessly and remotely for months to watch people performing a home COVID test in advance of its FDA-approval last week. Can you imagine watching person after person reading the instructions and taking the test for ten hours a day, six days a week? I am sure it was mind-numbing, but it gives me confidence to know that people will have access to a home test kit that will be reasonably priced and accurate. I give thanks for her.
I give thanks for Dolly Parton and her donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund research into the Moderna vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, this one does not need to be kept at ultra-cold conditions, so it will have a much easier and safer distribution.
I give thanks for my parents, who loved me fiercely while they lived and, I am sure, love me still. Thanksgiving was the big holiday of the year for them and the preparations they went through were massive. Every dinner at our house growing up was treated as a time set apart for family, for conversation, for peace. That tradition stayed with me once I was preparing my own dinners for my family. To this day, we always sit down together at the table, we always have candlelight, we always start our meal with a prayer of thanks, and we talk with one another.
I give thanks for Marc, who is one of the many people at the front lines fighting COVID. As his hospital continues to convert more beds to ICU/COVID units, his shoulders have started to round a bit with the burden. Yet, day after day, he comes home and finds ways to lift both of our spirits.
I give thanks for our being able to be with one another virtually when we cannot be with one another in reality. As much as we might feel that it’s not the same, it is so much more than they had during the Spanish flu. Even if there were no pandemic, neither Peter nor Paul would have been able to come this year, but we will share Thanksgiving with them nonetheless, both with a video call and, has become our tradition, with pictures sent back and forth as all our dishes are prepared.
I am thankful for my health and my strength, which I squandered away in the first sixty years of my life. I give thanks that I can walk without pain, that I have energy and stamina. It took a village for that miracle to occur: my doctor, my family, and my friends. It also took me, and my fierce resolve and belief that I could change my life.
I am thankful for the meal Marc and I and Luke will share together. I recently found an old recipe for the pumpkin pie I make each year. The recipe was written by my grandmother. She entitled it “Mother’s pumpkin pie,” which means my great-grandmother found this recipe sometime around 1900. My grandfather’s second wife, Juanita, contributed to our meal as well, with both the sweet potato casserole and cranberry that I continue to make year after year.
I give thanks for all the people who came before us, who fought wars, who made discoveries, who composed, who taught, who created, who prayed. We stand on the shoulders of so many others, and the world in which we live is their lasting legacy to each of us.
Now it is upon us to choose how we will care for that legacy. This week and in the months ahead, my family will continue to distance ourselves from others, we will continue to mask, we will continue to meet virtually rather than congregate with one another. I will send notes and cards to people living alone; I will pick up the phone so that no one in my circle is without that touch. I will deliver pies to City Gospel Mission, but I will not stay to see them enjoy it, because we all need to keep one another safe. I will light a candle Thanksgiving Day for all the souls across our world whom we lost to COVID, as well as for their loved ones who are left with that terrible grief.
I will be grateful for what we have, rather than bitter for what we don’t have. And, with a full heart, I wish for each of you to be filled with that gratitude as well. Happy Thanksgiving!