When the holiday of gratitude rolls around, it’s no wonder so many people love a day of thankfulness. No wrapped gifts to be exchanged. No shopping to be had. No store-bought wishes to be granted. No disappointments of not receiving something you thought was coming. Just a day of family, fellowship, and breaking bread with people we love.
As Thanksgiving approaches, so does the realization of yet another year’s passing. Reveling in our life circumstances, we face our own mortality, remember our ancestors, and quietly hope and pray that our grown children also embrace gratitude in their blessed lives. For those of us saying “Time is passing too fast,” it becomes accentuated when the “little ones” arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. Grandkids no longer evoke the sound of tiny feet running down the hall, but rather footsteps of purpose as they show off their footballs and baseballs they brought to play with later on.
Soon comes the gaiety of meal prep: turkey stuffing, pie making, and a house filled with savory cooking aromas. Out comes the traditional family recipes and the sharing of old stories and lots of laughs as we recall those “remember when’s…” But in the end, it’s human kindness that fills our hearts that day – a feeling of comfort far grander than any well-cooked turkey or dessert pie. The tenderness of a hug, profound words from someone unexpected, or recollection of good times past are the new memories we’ll treasure long after the table is cleared and everyone has gone home.
But before we leave that beloved Thanksgiving environment, there are time-honored traditions and customs we depend on that reinforce the decades-old, finely-woven fabric we call “family unity.” These are the moments when I’m so glad I kept the heirlooms and traditions intact that may seem superfluous or outdated to others. Setting the table with Mom’s special china that she passed down; using table linens and cloth napkins the kids helped fold and spread with care; and playing tunes in the background – everything from Frank Sinatra to Queen. These are the familiar acts of memory-making that we celebrate on Thanksgiving Day.
Yet there’s more to giving thanks that goes beyond what transpires behind our festive front doors. For generations, we’ve said grace and shared gratitude for our blessings – and if we can do this for our families, there’s no reason we can’t do it for others.
Before we cook or as we shop for meal ingredients, we should include at least one or more acts of kindness toward someone we don’t know and say grace for them as well. Let the young ones learn about charity beyond just dropping off donated discards, wearing slogan T-shirts, and doing walk-runs. Serving food at a shelter, visiting the lonely, assisting the elderly, or volunteering at a hospital takes thoughtfulness, compassion and kindness – all virtues of human interaction most people have forgotten, while they would rather spend time socially keyboarding. Let’s vow to add a new tradition this year that includes touching someone’s life in even the smallest way.
Just for one day… no, for all days leading up to Thanksgiving and beyond, may we muster up our human graciousness that has somehow become dormant yet begs restlessly to surface, and get back to one-on-one kindness toward one another. We may not heal the nation’s wounds or change our neighbors’ temperaments, but we can share a meal of laughter and friendship over a glass of wine, cup of coffee, or piece of Thanksgiving pie. Now that’s a tradition worth keeping.
Abella Carroll is a freelance writer