Thanksgiving is a religious holiday – it’s where the secular meets the sacred and merges into something more than either can be alone. It’s pure poetry.
What’s more sacred than a genuine sense of appreciation? I’m not referring to feeling glad for having the big pile of stuff we all accumulate. I’m talking about a genuine feeling of thankfulness, the kind that comes from the deepest place ‘where the spirit meets the bone.’
It’s about feeling appreciation for the gift of Life; for Love that has been loved into us, for family and friendships, for the cherished memories of loved ones who no longer sit at the table, but without whom life would have had some big empty spaces.
At the risk of sounding like a sermon, which is dangerous enough on a Sunday morning, to have religion is to be aware of a sense of connectedness – to other people (Companionship) to Nature (God) and to an ever-changing, failing, limited, evolving-and-emerging self.
Allow me to be specific. In January, 1960, my second year at Salem State College, with tuition at $100 a semester, my car broke down – the car I used to drive five other commuting students every day for $3 each a week. I had no money to get the car repaired, and I felt so discouraged I enlisted in the Army. I took the physical and the oath and was home waiting to begin boot camp.
One night my oldest brother, Chet, walked into my room and slapped five $100 bills on my desk and said, “Now what’s your excuse!” What a moment!
Chet had dropped out of college, was married and waiting for the birth of his first child. He was driving a garbage truck for $60 a week. Those five hundred dollar bills, which he borrowed from a finance company, represented more than two months pay. What a gift…the money and the challenge.
I enrolled for classes a few days late that semester and graduated two and a half years later, taught school for seven years, went to seminary in 1969 and started a career in ministry, thanks to Chet, and the new National Student Defense Loan program, which allowed me to repay Chet those five $100 bills!
In this chapter of my most amazing career, this work that has brought rich rewards beyond the counting, I realize it might not have happened if it wasn’t for the money and challenge from Chet. It allowed all the other pieces to fall into place – all the help and encourage-ment from lots of people over the course of my life.
When I say that Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, this is part of what I have in mind – thinking specifically about the blessings of my life. So it’s not just on the fourth Thursday in November – it’s the millions of moments of feeling thankful. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving – make it the most religious holiday by remembering all the people who have blessed your life. “Now what’s your excuse!”