It’s not the turkey. It’s not the football. It’s not the fall colors.
None of those are the reason I love Thanksgiving, why it is my favorite Holiday. (Not even the gravy, though it is close.)
No, the reason I love this week can be summed up in two words: Family and gratitude.
Thanksgiving, to me, is the quintessential family event. It is gathering relatives (and a few stray friends) together, dining at the communal table, laughing/crying/storytelling. It is full bellies, naps after dinner, walks in the yard.
Christmas offers some of the same, but it is consumed with the pressures of commercialism that often overshadow its message.
There is no missing the message of Thanksgiving. The word says it all: Let’s give thanks for all that we have. For the family and friends that give us comfort. For our homes and cars, no matter how humble and rickety they may be. For health and health care. For the faith that comforts us, the morality/ethics that guide us and the mental faculties that help us negotiate through this confounding world.
Today, America is politically divided. Our culture has turned into a partisan league of teams — or tribes, as some have suggested. Those folks in our tribe are correct and righteous. The other tribe is dead-wrong and evil.
Families are no different. Uncle Pete may love the president or governor that you despise. Cousin Martha might love the Dodgers and you wear Giants gear. Nephew Willie listens to hip-hop and you are devoted to country.
But at the table, we all are family. We learn to — or try to — put away our differences. Or, better yet, to accept each other’s feelings and opinions and hope they will respect ours.
In short, we understand that storing our political and cultural differences under our seats is the best way to enjoy Thanksgiving. Long live peace, love and brotherhood — at least until the last piece of turkey has been gobbled.
Many observers have suggested that Thanksgiving is a deceit. They suggest that we should not need a special day to show our gratitude, that we should be thankful every day.
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And that may be true, but at least we can use this one special day to remind us of the importance of being grateful.
Gratitude comes from humility, as we are reminded in this quote from American clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher:
“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”
Of course, humility is a difficult attitude for those of us who have a constant need to be correct — and for those who need to have it all.
To be grateful is to admit that what we have is sufficient for our needs. That the world, while seeming to teeter on the verge of calamity, still has beauty and promise. And that others are as worthy of love as we believe we are.
That’s what I love about Thanksgiving. It grounds me, humbles me, and gives me the proper perspective on life.
So I will close with this quote from American author Melody Beattie:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
To that, I say, “Amen.” And “please pass the gravy.”
(Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. Selma Stories runs regularly in The Enterprise.)