Americans are about to enter into a time of national frenzy. It is called:
“Getting ready for Thanksgiving.”
The frenzy will fill the aisles of grocery stores where the masses will search for fresh cranberries or (in another aisle) the cans of cranberry jello-mold-like-substance (I’m not judging, just describing). One thing that makes the Grocery Store Olympics especially spirited is that most participants are looking for the SAME TWENTY ITEMS. Don’t get me wrong, we Americans love our individual freedoms, but don’t you dare set a quinoa salad next to the mashed potatoes.
(If this post had a soundtrack, we would now play “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.)
Of course, there are many who will not set foot in a grocery store because they are packing for their red-eye flight across the country. This event is especially fun if you have children and live on the opposite coast from their grandparents. Ah, now YOU are the caretaker of the two-year old who won’t stop kicking the seatback in front of her. Fun for everyone.
Flying, driving, shopping, cleaning… the frenzy will escalate throughout the week and peak sometime on Thanksgiving Day while Aunt so-and-so frantically beats the lumps out of the gravy while the rest of the food is getting cold. A preteen cousin will add to the clamor by complaining to no one in particular that he is TOO OLD to sit with the BABIES, and someone else will protest that they can’t turn off the game in the FOURTH QUARTER when their team is DOWN BY 6.
“It’s time to eat!!!!!” someone will holler, and the frenzy will converge. And now, while the food-that-took-all-day-to-prepare is getting even colder, some elder voice will command, “Time to pray!”
The preteen will roll his eyes. It’s tradition. (cue the soundtrack) Tradition!
Now if I may, a few observations. First, yes, I know that this is not exactly the way that things happen in your family. Some will not pray and some will not watch football. Some of you (gasp) will even eat quinoa. The point is not the details.
The point is the frenzy. Because it has recently occurred to me that in the midst of all this preparation, of all this noble and necessary work, there is one thing that we spend precious little time getting ready for… the thanks-giving. Do we think that it will happen accidentally?
I’m not sure that it does. Not in my life, at least. Sure, I may really mean the prayer that we pray around the table. I may even feel a vague sense of gratitude when we arrive at my parent’s house and the girls run in yelling, “Nana! Papa!” But will I devote as much time and energy to my thanks-giving as I do to making my sweet potatoes? Not likely. Well, not accidentally.
But what would it even look like to ‘get ready to say thank you’? Good question. I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas for this week, and I would love to hear yours as well. What if we…
1. Think of one (or two or three) people who we appreciate for some reason or another, and take the time to write them a surprise thank you note? Then stick it in the mailbox on Thanksgiving morning.
2. See if we could take one day and write down a list of 100 things that we are genuinely thankful for? Big things, little things, silly things and serious things. Ann Voskamp, whose book “One Thousand Gifts” is changing my perspective on life, was dared by a friend to write down one thousand things that she was thankful for. I dare YOU to write down a hundred.
3. Speaking of lists, how about this one? Write down a list of the people who are likely to be sitting at your Thanksgiving table and tape it up where you will see it (bathroom mirror, bedside stand?). Come up with something you appreciate about each person and write it next to their name. On Thursday morning, begin the day by reading your list to yourself. See what happens.
4. Your turn!