The holidays always seem to sneak up on me, no matter how far in advance I start to plan. This year has been no different. I am in charge of the desserts, and as usual, I am doing some last-minute planning and experimenting. Today, I have a pumpkin pie on my counter based off of a friend's recipe. It feels a little like cheating to have it now, but it's a delicious cheat.
My mother bought a large organic turkey that is sitting in her refrigerator. My older sister called me today when out shopping for some of the traditional side dishes we always make (one of which is this recipe for long-simmered green beans). My younger sister just got married, so it's her first year to bring her own dish. She's bringing my absolute favorite from childhood, Creamy Cranberry Salad. My husband's family is coming over later in the day so we can all share dessert together.
What does all this hustle and bustle mean? All of us are running extra errands, spending more on food, and definitely putting more time into preparing it. When I think about that day so many years ago when the pilgrims and the Native Americans joined together for a feast of thanksgiving, I realize that we have lost the symbolic nature of a feast. Our work is no longer so intertwined to the Earth. I didn't have to plow, plant, water, gather, fish or hunt for my food. My work, besides the daily grind of taking care of two young children, takes place in front of a piano or a computer screen. I am thankful for what I am able to do because I love it. I love to write and I love music. (I teach classical piano lessons.) But sometimes I don't appreciate Thanksgiving in the same way, because I take food for granted now that we live with modern conveniences.
You see, that first Thanksgiving was given largely as a celebration of food; for the harvest that was gathered and stored. To our modern American ears, that can sound trivial. But would it be trivial to celebrate food when you had nearly starved to death? I don't think so. We only think it sounds trivial because most of us haven't gone hungry for very long. This year, I see that I have much to be thankful for. My family is one of the things I am most thankful to have, and I am so grateful that I have food to feed them. My husband didn't have to go hunt a turkey and I didn't have to plow any fields or plant any squash, but this feast is still a picture of a year's hard work for us. We have the money we need to buy our turkey, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
When I think of the many who don't have adequate food around the world, I am humbled. Did I really grumble about the extra work Thanksgiving can bring? How ungrateful can I be? Thanksgiving is certainly a time to be grateful for many, many things. This Thanksgiving, I am remembering that thankfulness includes appreciating that basic needs of food and shelter are being met.
With that in mind, I've realized what a beautiful thing it is to give to others on this day when we have been given so much. A quick Google search showed that there are many outreaches to those in need on Thanksgiving day. Local stores gather food to donate to those in need as well as raise funds to help feed the elderly in our community. I think that a truly thankful attitude turns naturally to giving to others. This Thanksgiving, I hope that I can keep my attitude truly thankful to God for all that I have. I want to be thankful not only for the extraordinary things in my life, but also the basic, everyday needs that are met. I want that attitude to help me give more to others.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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