Thanksgiving Letter | October 4, 2018
As I sat at my desk preparing this letter this morning, I was distracted by the content of the pullout drawer at the desk. In other words, I was stuck, before putting a word on the page. Then something wonderful happened. I opened the drawer and found a card that one of the families in the parish had given me last Thanksgiving. It read, “The love of family and friends is life’s greatest blessing. May the warmth of the season fill your heart and home. Happy Thanksgiving” Suddenly thoughts and reflections flooded my mind as I began to write you this thanksgiving letter.
Thanksgiving begins with an attitude of gratitude. In the healthiest of situations this attitude of gratitude moves into healthy action, including sharing our bounty with others. This comes in all kinds of forms, including being the organizer of dinners, receptions and special events for the Thanksgiving season. Some of you will be relieved that there are other ways to celebrate. Including a leadership model called servanthood whereby you are the one who agrees to do the many simple tasks that assist the leader of the event. I prefer to prepare the vegetables, do the shopping, clean the house, even cut the grass, so that the true leader of the event can organize the people. I already do a lot of that at work. Might I say that although I am a strong supporter of family gatherings at this time of year, I realize they don’t happen for everyone.
I am painfully aware that Thanksgiving can be a very difficult time for many people. For some, it is because they have lost a loved one recently and Thanksgiving is a reminder that there is an empty chair at the table. For others it is the result of a dysfunctional family whereby previous Thanksgiving gatherings were unpleasant and one almost dreads what might be coming next. Last but not least, this is an extremely difficult time for those who are struggling with depression or anxiety. It’s hard to hide in a crowd. These people often prefer to be alone and yet hate being lonely. I guess what I’m trying to say is this can be a very difficult time of year for those who are in pain whether it be physical, emotional or psychological. If you are one of those people, may I encourage you to surround yourself only in people that you love and trust that will accept you the way you are and be present with you. If you’re the person who is able to celebrate this year, may I encourage you to come along side someone in need and share your cheer with them and encourage them along the journey. There is an extraordinary gift in the ministry of presence. Sometimes it’s the greatest gift we can share with those in need.
From a spiritual perspective it’s important to consider the many blessings that we have received during the last year. Our culture points towards a celebration at Thanksgiving to give thanks for our food, friends and fellowship. I always find it helpful to begin prayers with “Lord, today I am thankful for…” This seems especially appropriate at Thanksgiving. You and I live in one of the best countries in the world. There is a lot of food, but that doesn’t happen by accident. We need to express our appreciation to the farmers who work the land and care for the animals that put food on our tables. We also need to pause and express appreciation for the jobs that allow us the financial resources to pay for the many comforts of life that we enjoy. But most of all, we need to give thanks for the faith that helps us endure, sustain and persevere in the most challenging times in life. I believe that God wants to bless us. I am convinced that our Lord wants us to enjoy life to the fullest. And I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is available and accessible to those who choose to depend on their faith, not just to survive but to thrive.
There is a wonderful story reported in the Atlanta Constitution by columnist Celeste Sibley. The story goes that a mother and three children went into a small restaurant for breakfast one morning. They were in a bit of a hurry because the children couldn’t be late for school. The restaurant was crowded. They took their place on separate seats at the counter section of the restaurant. Little eight year-old Mary sat at the end of the line, a fair distance away from her mother. When they were served their breakfast Mary spoke in a loud voice. She asked, “Mommy don’t people ask the blessing in this place?” The restaurant went silent. Before she could hush her child, the owner spoke up and said, “Yes we do little girl.” Every head in the restaurant was bowed. There was a silent reverence and Mary prayed, “God is great and God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” It is said that many of the customers began saying grace after their encounter with a precocious, faithful young lady named Mary.
My other favourite story this time of year is of a postal employee who, while working the late shift one Thanksgiving weekend, found a letter addressed to Santa Claus. Clearly this envelope was lost. It was not only 3 months before Christmas but it had been some time since the last set of Christmas letters. In 3 months before Christmas there were thousands of letters asking for something. This wasn’t a request. This was a thank you note. “Dear Santa, thank you for bringing my daddy home. Thank you for my new bike and thank you for sending Grandma and Grandpa to share Christmas with us. “ The postal worker sat with tears running down his face for a long time. He was thinking how quick we are to ask and receive how slow we are to speak the magic word, thanks.
Recently I found a poem that I thought I would conclude with.
In Everything Give Thanks
For all that God in mercy sends – For health and children, home and friends;
For comforts in the time of need, For every kindly word and deed,
For happy talks and holy thought; For guidance in our daily walk-
In everything give thanks!
For beauty in this world of ours, For verdant grass and lovely flowers,
For song of birds, for hum of bees, For the refreshing summer breeze,
For hill and plain, for stream and wood, For the great oceans’ mighty flood –
In everything give thanks!
For the sweet sleep which comes with night, For the returned morning light,
For the bright sun that shines on high, For the stars glittering in the sky –
For these and everything we see, O Lord, our hearts we lift to Thee;
In everything give thanks!
May God bless you and those you love during this Thanksgiving Season. May we always remember to give thanks to our Lord for his many blessings.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Dr Stephen Hendry