I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving this year. It comes to mind that commercialism overlooks Thanksgiving. That won’t come as a big surprise to you. In September, the stores were covered in Halloween candy and costumes. And even before the kids were done with their Halloween treats, Christmas decorations were hanging from the rafters. It didn’t really bother me before. I was used to it. It happens that way every year and every year we complain about the Christmas decorations coming out earlier and earlier. But we never complain about the lack of focus on Thanksgiving. Now, stores are taking Thanksgiving away from their employees by starting “Black Friday” on Thursday night. What happened to Thanksgiving?
I think what brings it to the surface for me is that fact that Thanksgiving is not about getting gifts, stocking stuffers, and the perfect present for that perfect person. Your love for someone is not measured in how “big” your gift is. Thanksgiving is about people coming together to laugh, watch football, enjoy conversation around the table and just be present with those you love. You won’t feel guilty if you can’t bring a gift, a meal, or can’t bring a gift that is equivalent to the others. Thanksgiving is not about the gift of substance; it’s about the gift of spirit and the spirit of thankfulness.
I’ve been sentimental about Thanksgiving this year. I don’t know if it’s because I am searching and hoping to find a job soon, wondering what’s going to happen next. The interviews, daily applications, more resumes, and regular uncertainty – all of it, gets draining. You begin to wonder when things will change and when someone will say, “you’re hired.” Thanksgiving is a forgotten holiday. Sometimes, I make a self-deprecating remark like, “I feel like Thanksgiving. People remember me when they see me, but forget about me the rest of the year.” I am honestly being silly when I say that. If there is something I’ve learned this year, it’s how untrue that statement is. So much has happened for this year, that I am grateful at how untrue that statement is. When I see my friends, we banter back and forth, in person, on texts and Facebook. Friends send me prayers through email and discuss books together online. They celebrated the work I accomplished, cheered me on, and followed up after interviews. We laugh over lunch, talk over coffee, pray together, worship side-by-side, meet in DC, and have late night talks. I am grateful for those who have reached out, been by my side, and accepted all of me – the good and the bad.
Here is the other thing I am grateful for. I am grateful for the opportunity to be unemployed. Sounds crazy I know. I’ve been unemployed before. 10 years ago to be exact and I remember how I reacted to the situation. I am 10 years older and I learned from my experience. Two wonderful people have allowed me (and my cat) to stay in their home, while we search for our next home. I am humbled at their extreme grace and generosity, given without expectation or return – except just to pay it forward. That has allowed me to be in the moment, not worried about my next meal or where I will sleep. I’ve had time to get to know myself again, my friends, my God and where He wants me to go. I’ve had time to get to know this beautiful city, Richmond all over again. I am reminded of the historic past of the confederate capital, but hopeful about it’s reconciled future. My prayer of thanksgiving today is for people like Rev. Ben Campbell, who is passionate to make that happen. His prayer the other evening was simple, yet hopeful, “May the capital of the confederacy become the capital of reconciliation.” I saw many churches come together as One Church, to Bless Richmond, and to bring the efforts of reconciliation and hope to this town. I love this city and all she is. The town is beautiful. The people are spirited. Their hearts are strong. The history is hard, but the future is possible.
Let that be the gift, the grace, the prayer and the hope on this Thanksgiving Day.