Thanksgiving is wonderfully full of traditions, with favorite recipes, rituals, and loved ones all around us. We look forward to these familiar ingredients to our celebrations, but sometimes they might become so familiar that we may not be able to recognize and appreciate them as fully as we could. Let’s experience the profound gift of thanks giving that makes our lives radiate with love.
Here are five suggestions for deepening our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Serving the poor in soup kitchens and homeless shelters at this time of year is a beautiful way to show respect, love, and care to those less fortunate. But, unfortunately, there is a dire need for help and food year-round. As part of giving thanks, consider extending the bounty you enjoy to include food drives and meal preparation during other times of the year, when there are fewer volunteers but the same, aching need.
It’s easy to express thanks for what or who we like and to toss away that which is undesirable or broken. Indeed, most of us also have people or things that we do not especially appreciate but that God has placed in our lives for a purpose. This season is a good time of year to look at the breakage in our lives, the relationships that have gone awry or the projects or promises we have made but broken. How can we repair what God has given us? How can we invite healing so that our thanks giving is as full as it possibly can be?
Many of us gather at Thanksgiving and speak about what we are thankful for. But perhaps we are not quite as articulate about why we give thanks. This year, for every “I’m thankful for my family/job/home/blessings” offered, find specific things to praise about. For example, express thanks for a loved one’s quiet strength or bubbling sense of humor. Be grateful for the warmth of an age-weathered home. Sing loudly about the resilience of a church family that supports those in need.
Put away the electronic devices, turn off the speakers, give breathing room to hectic holiday schedules, and engage people near and far in heartfelt conversation. Go beyond topics like the weather sports to listen, learn, and laugh. Connect with people face-to-face and heart-to-heart and fill up on fellowship instead of only food.
Holidays can be times of conflict as loved ones gather and discover or rekindle profound differences. In reality, even if we grew up together, live in the same town, and share many commonalities, we are, each of us, uniquely different. This Thanksgiving, instead of highlighting what makes us separate or perhaps at odds with one another, try to focus on the essence of Thanksgiving – that, as the song goes, “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” and embrace one another with love and peace.