Thanksgiving Day (US) 2010
The Beginning of The Season of Light
Sirach 50:22-24 (Now thank we all our God):
And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.
Psalm 136 (Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (I give thanks always to God for you)
Luke 17:11-19 ("Ten lepers were cured - where are the other nine? Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this Samaritan?")
I present a hodgepodge or potpourri of past and present thoughts as we enter the six week period I call The Season of Light (if for no other reason but to hold my sanity in place).
Evidence holds that what most of us look to as the first idyllic celebration of thanksgiving by the Pilgrims at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621 was a three-day foodapalooza with 100 last-minute guests (the natives) prepared by five women. Yes, I'm oversimplifying. Those five women had no time to complain, which may be one reason why this festival has such endearing attachment to family and home, two things of which we should be thankful by default.
But back to those five ladies - I'm thankful for their culinary expertise, such as it was nearly four centuries ago. Their endurance eventually won out over Yankee vs. Southern political quirkiness - and due to the persistence of a sixth fine lady, Sarah Hale.
Now about that food fest - it came to my attention this morning that the average intake for the "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4500 calories. Notwithstanding, my dear wife has signed on to an 80/20 plan when it comes to holiday dinners; meaning stay on a balanced eating plan 80% of the time, and simply enjoy the spread the other 20%, which usually falls around holidays and other significant personal events. (I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor, and I don't pretend to be either, so understand that certain conditions can rule out the 80/20 concept.)
I had a chance meeting with my sister while doing grocery shopping last weekend. She's one of the people for whom I've come to be very thankful, as she takes care of my Mom every day, most times twice a day, at the nursing facility Mom has come to call home in the progression of Parkinson's Disease. I found out that there's nothing special on the menu for the residents this Thanksgiving; so my other sister will pop in and bring her and my Dad more traditional fare.
By the way, I presume you know that the turkey is a native American bird. Benjamin Franklin attempted to promote it as a national symbol at the founding of our nation. But the reason it came to be called turkey had nothing to do with anyone living on the continent, natives or colonists. It has more to do with how the bird made its way across the Atlantic, as National Public Radio reported some years ago.
In the 1500s when the American bird first arrived in Great Britain, it was shipped in by merchants in the East, mostly from Constantinople (who'd brought the bird over from America). Since it wholesaled out of Turkey, the British referred to it as a "Turkey coq." In fact, the British weren't particularly precise about products arriving from the East. Persian carpets were called "Turkey rugs." Indian flour was called "Turkey flour." Hungarian carpet bags were called "Turkey bags." If a product came to London from the far side of the Danube, Londoners labeled it "Turkey" and that's what happened to the American bird. Thus, an American bird got the name Turkey-coq, which was then shortened to "Turkey."
The point is for 500 years now, this proud (if not exactly brilliant) American animal has never had a truly American name. And just to keep this ball rolling…all over the world, people now can eat American Turkeys, but they don't call them Turkeys.
Across Arabia, they call our bird "diiq Hindi," or the "Indian rooster."
In Russia, it's "Indjushka," bird of India.
In Poland, "Inyczka"— again "bird from India."
And what, we wondered, do the Turks call our turkey?
Well, they call it "Hindi," again, short for India.
While on that shopping trip over last weekend, and in the presence of my sister, my dear wife suffered her knee giving out on her, and she took a fall behind my car. She's developed arthritis particularly in that area stemming from injuries long ago, before I knew her. She's recovering as expected, but can't stay on her feet long or unsupported; which means this year my son and I will do a lot of the cooking. My wife will direct us both, and will do some prep work from the table where she can remain seated; so it will be a team effort. I am deeply thankful that my wife didn't get hurt to the point where she would require hospitalization or surgery. I'm also thankful that my son has been able to step in and assist her. He's shown how much of a man he will be.
Yes, I'm thankful - very thankful - that my parents are still living, and managing the challenges set before them at this stage in life. I'm very thankful that my wife does what she does and is who she is, and that we morph and adapt and do whatever we can to make the best out of the challenges before us. I'm thankful that my son willingly accepted the call to be giving in need. He understands more than he lets on at times, and it makes all the difference in the world. I love them all.
Somehow, saying "thank you" in and of itself doesn't begin to cover how much you appreciate the love and connections you have with others. Sometimes you have to be brought to a very low place in life to fully appreciate the strengths you have. The rejuvenated spirit of that tenth leper made a big splash, and we don't even know his name! Still, I believe that sense of total gratitude was somewhere in Abraham Lincoln's thoughts when in 1863, as a war-weary nation was finding itself, he gave this address to the American people:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
--Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.
That, to me, is how the Season of Light should begin. It begins with understanding, even in the midst of whatever troubles we have, that there are people that share some degree of their life intermingled with our own. It should also serve to remind us that we should share something of ourselves with those in need; giving thanks by giving to others. In the overall scheme of the universe, there are many ways to do this. It is right that we offer thanks and praise, with hearts, and hands, and voices.