This Thanksgiving, broaden your view on thankfulness.
I love Thanksgiving. In fact, next to Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday. I love everything about it — the sounds, the smells, and, of course, the food. Would it even be Thanksgiving without the food? The answer is yes, which is what I want to expound on here.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing author Mitch Albom, who is well-known for his New York Times best seller Tuesdays with Morrie. I love Mitch’s work, yet when the opportunity came to spend time with him, I was struck by how thankful he is. During the interview, I began to wonder whether I had been limiting my own view of this great holiday, so I determined to reflect on what it really means to be thankful.
Colossians 2:6-7 is one of my favorite verses on Thanksgiving and on what it means to be thankful — even before we sit down at that turkey-laden table. In my childhood that involved Thanksgiving Eve, when my mother instituted a tradition. The day before Thanksgiving, my mother had me walk around with a notecard in hand and list all the things I was thankful for so that we could share them around the table on Thanksgiving Day. I haven’t done this since I was a child, but it’s a great way to remember why we set aside the day to be thankful.
During my conservation with Mitch, we spoke about his new book, Stranger in the Lifeboat. Without giving away too much, in the book there is a lifeboat in which the main characters find themselves. That lifeboat is Jesus, who wants to meet their needs and has come to do just that if they will recognize them. As Mitch shared this, I wondered how many times I had sat down at the Thanksgiving table without realizing that God already had been there long before I arrived. God even knew who would be at the table with me.
Mitch travels to Haiti once a month, and he explained how this practice has changed his life.
“It’s hard to get volunteers to come down there. It’s hard to get donors or people to help you out to come down, because they’re all afraid. They read the reports. They don’t want to go, but we are undeterred. And the kids at our orphanage, their faith is unquestioned. And it’s pretty amazing, because they have nothing, you know. All their possessions can fit into a little bag, and yet they pray and sing with this amazing fervor. And if you ask them the question, ‘Are you 100% with God,’ nothing shakes them. The faith of children is something that we could all stand to emulate.”
I readily agree with Mitch on the faith of children. Life seemed so much easier when I had to sit at the children’s table during Thanksgiving dinner. Now as an adult I can easily forget how thankful I should be for the people sitting around the table with me; we don’t know how much longer we will be blessed by their presence. Here’s a reminder for this Thanksgiving: As you sit down at the table, be thankful for the people around it.
While we are sitting at the Thanksgiving table, let’s also allow our faith to mingle with the food set before us. So many are less fortunate. Even with the rise of food prices, we should be thankful to enjoy a meal. It is so easy to take even the little things for granted.
Mitch and I reflected on the things God created, and I was reminded not only to reflect on the wonder of God’s creation but also to view it with the faith of a child. Mitch echoed such a faith, stating, “The more I work with children, the more I continue to be in awe of the world and what God has created and what God has done.”
Take the opportunity to embrace the childlike awe of God’s creation as expressed through the simplicity of a meal. God loves to communicate truth through a simple meal (think Passover and the Lord’s Supper), and a Thanksgiving dinner yields new insights to those willing to observe.
As you walk away from the table this year, remember that the same God who met you at the table will be with you and your problems when you leave it.
If you’ve been following Mitch for any length of time, you may remember that he and his wife adopted a Hattian child named Chica. Chica had a terminal disease when she was adopted, and she later died from it. As we talked, Mitch reflected on Chica’s life and what God did in him through the worst experience of his life. I, like Mitch, understand what it’s like to lose a child.
“I, like Mitch, understand what it’s like to lose a child.”
“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to us,” Mitch admitted. “And yet it has also been the best thing that has ever happened. We learned that we didn’t lose a child. We were given one. So, when you come to realize that, you know, God can answer your prayers sometimes with something that breaks your heart. That only makes the whole idea of God more magnificent to me, and that’s where my connection to faith comes from.”
I couldn’t agree with Mitch more.
My friend, author Steve Carter, recently told me that the place we can go to when we get triggered with today’s struggles is back to God’s kindnesses toward us. This year, expand your definition of Thanksgiving and remember that — before we get to the Thanksgiving table and after we leave it — we should be thankful in every aspect of what God has done and will do.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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