When I was a kid, I thought of Thanksgiving as just a big meal that came a little before the main event of Christmas. Even though I went through the whole pilgrim and Plymouth Rock lesson in school each year and brought home the paper plate and construction paper turkey, I never really thought much about it. My mom would get up early and begin cooking a big meal for the entire family (they all seemed to be at our house on this one day of the year), we’d watch the Macy’s parade on TV and then much of the rest of the day would be spent watching football or playing Pinochle. I preferred to watch the old movies that would often run late in the afternoon – Journey to the Center of the Earth, (the original one), or Forbidden Planet – football usually won out though. I often miss those long lazy afternoons and cold turkey sandwiches for supper!
The years have changed us all. Mom no longer cooks a big meal and the 7 of us kids who are left each have our own families; some of us are even grandparents now and have our own extended families that we spend time with. For some the day may be little more than a day off of work – and, yes, the football game in the afternoon. You read in books and see in the movies how everyone always comes home for the holidays…they come from across the country or just across town and meet together, often for the weekend. They give a hug, maybe a kiss on the cheek, someone stirs up an old argument and they all have it out and in the end realize just how much they really love each other and just how thankful they are to be together again. I doubt that this is the reality for many of us. Is this brave new fast-paced world pushing us all apart? Are we less invested in each other and more concerned about ourselves and our own little world? Have we lost something somewhere along the way?
Thanksgiving for most in this great country has become much smaller…less significant. The stores start to sell Christmas before Halloween is over and kind of throw Thanksgiving in for a couple of weeks. It has all become more-or-less one jumbled mess. We have forgotten what happened at that first Thanksgiving and how close those few brave souls came to extinction. The pilgrims struggled for their very survival because they believed that in this Brave New World they could have a new life…a better life. They believed that if they could just make it through the first winter they would have a fighting chance at a true and lasting freedom. They believed there were real reasons to be thankful…even in the midst of their overwhelming struggles. And they believed there was a God who was working all things together for their good. If they had not believed these things, we would not be here today and have the opportunity to be thankful for what they sacrificed. Thanksgiving is not just another day off…it is not a day intended for us to gorge ourselves and spend money on Christmas. It is far more important than that. It is a day to remember sacrifices and successes, struggles and dreams, challenges and victories. It is a day to remember we are not here by chance but by providence, and by providence we remain a free and brave nation.