Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good.
His faithful love continues forever. I Chronicles 16:34 (NIRV)
Thanksgiving. The name conjures up many images. Images of a family sitting around a lavish dining room table, giving thanks and then dining heartily. Thanksgiving conjures up the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Conjures up homecoming events at high schools and many play their big games today. Conjures up the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys vs. their rival of the day (today it’s the Carolina Panthers). It conjures up memories of coming home for Thanksgiving break from college, as many college students did yesterday. It also conjures up the start of the Christmas season with Christmas commercials and preparation for “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. It conjures up many images that are in our collective psyche.
However, for many, Thanksgiving conjures up a whole different set of images. The homeless going to a shelter or church for a free meal and companionship. It conjures up “marathon” 12-Step meetings with dinner so that the recovering can have the Holiday without being in recovery-compromising situations. For the soldier overseas, it conjures up the pain of separation from kin and friends whilst thanking the Divine for another day of surviving combat. For those who lost loved ones, it conjures up memories whilst staring at an empty chair at the table. For those who are refugees struggling for asylum, it conjures up images of not being included as the “other”. For those in abusive homes, it conjures up a tense and terrifying day wonder how the abuser will act. For the lonely sitting in their homes-or wherever-alone, it conjures up their loneliness. For those struggling with heart-wrenching issues, it conjures up pain since they’re supposed to be “happy” and “thankful”. For those working in the medical and public safety professions, it conjures up missing the family whilst ensuring that others enjoy their day. For retail workers with employers working today, it conjures up images of being away family and the attendant guilt while making sure said family is being provided for.
And for descendants of First Nation people here in the Americas, it conjures up images of European subterfuge in the guise of “amity” whilst slowly stealing land and engendering genocide. For many First Nation-and others-it’s a Day of Mourning.
Welcome to Thanksgiving 2015. What should be we thankful for? We’re still reeling from the Paris, Kenya and Nigeria attacks; whilst living in fear of terrorists. We have a growing Syrian refugee crisis in Europe and here in the US. We just saw Turkey shoot down a Russian warplane over its airspace (doesn’t help that Turkey’s part of NATO). We have a presidential candidate in Donald Trump who pushes demagoguery and exposes the ugly underbelly of Right-wing policies: xenophobia, racism, sexism, class-ism, and other ugliness. We see Islam, Christianity and Judaism in a fight for being “right” whilst dragging the rest of the world-as well as their adherents-down into the mud. #BlackLivesMatter still doesn’t matter to racist police and supremacists; a struggle for all who cry for justice and equity. And we see the ugly truth behind Thanksgiving through the eyes of First Nation descendants, as the day-and other tidbits of historical propaganda get exposed in the light of truth.
I know I said a lot, however we can’t sugar coat the truth with Thanksgiving sentimentality. To paraphrase Millie Jackson, “I have to say it.”
I also know that you’re asking, “Well gee…what then should we be thankful for?” Well Dear Reader, I’m going to answer that for you. If you have your reasonable portion of health and strength, have a roof over your head, and have something to eat; you still have something to be thankful for. Despite all the crises in our world, we can be thankful the world is still a beautiful place. Thankful that we still have people who are laboring for peace and justice-in every area of human life. Thankful we have Christians (and adherents of other beliefs) who still live out the Divine in their daily lives in order to improve humanity’s lot. The fact that you can read and understand this is something to be thankful for. Plus, being thankful that We The People have more power than we realize to change our communities, our nations and our world for the better and thus usher in the King/Queendom of God.
There’s still plenty to be thankful for Thanksgiving 2015-despite the challenges. Let’s work so that we can add more onto the “thankful” column.
A Blessed and Peaceful Thanksgiving.