For as long as my children have been grown and have had children of their own, we have had to be flexible at the holidays because of individual schedules and other family commitments. We’ve gathered to celebrate Christmas as early as December 11th and as late as December 29th. The day on the calendar was not as important as our being together so we made the calendar a somewhat fluid concept.
Same with more than two dozen Thanksgivings. Some on the actual day, but just as many on another. Sometimes it’s a huge crowd, sometimes a small but elite group. Over the years, as our tribe has changed and aged, we’ve added and subtracted to our numbers with the inevitabilities of moves, marriage, divorce, births and deaths. Regardless, somehow we always bring it together to acknowledge through our traditions that we are grateful.
And grateful we are. So grateful.
Thanksgiving 2016 we pulled together as many as were able to enjoy our traditional turkey feast on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Proving, yet again, that we are not beholden to a printed calendar. On the actual designated day, as the tribe dispersed to celebrate the holiday with others, Poppy and I escaped to our boat on Lake Lanier for the start of a long quiet weekend. I planned a scaled down mock turkey dinner for us to chow on. Seemed like the normal thing to do, not sure why, likely more to do with honoring tradition than desire to eat more turkey.
As I was preparing our little representative meal, suddenly I found myself fighting off a tug of sadness. I soon rationalized it as empathy that comes from immersion in a circumstance. It washed over me that there were likely uncountable others who, without family to share the day/meal with, would be all alone, to eat whatever, endure and cope as best they could. I let the slideshow roll in my head reviewing our boisterous, happy, too-much-food to consume gathering on the previous Saturday and stood there temporarily immobilized in my small galley in a swirl of emotion.
I offered up a prayer for those alone, no matter the reason. And then I offered up a prayer of gratitude, not only for the blessings of family and friends or for more than enough food and homes to gather to eat it in, but also for the opportunity that comes with those blessings abundant. Opportunities to share and care - opportunities to praise God for more than merely being spared some of the trials others face every day - but thankful for obligations of heart. The ability/honor to be God’s hands and feet to bless others.
After our scaled down repast we bravely sat, bundled up on the back deck. The norm for the busy marina is motion and noise so I’ve never experienced such stillness and quiet there. I could easily imagine the other dockers elsewhere eating too much and hooping it up with their favorite people as the two of us simply embraced the abnormal peace.
Looking out to the undisturbed polished patent leather water reflecting a fringe of the last remaining rusty golden trees of autumn I understood, in the briefest flush of insight, how deep and wide gratitude could be. How being grateful is not what you are at the end of being blessed. It is the beginning of what you do to show it.
As a winter gull took advantage of an updraft overhead, questing for his favorite meal, I pondered my opportunity.