The country where I live does not celebrate Thanksgiving Day. They say they do, but they don’t.
They call it the Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer, which is a mouthful, especially in German, but it’s nothing, really. It falls in the middle of September, and to me it’s just a day like any other.
I miss Thanksgiving Day, the real one, the one I remember from childhood. I woke up a little sad this morning thinking about it. I miss the meal of course, but I realize that I never helped to get it ready, and that I might not have enjoyed it nearly as much if I had to do the cooking. Most years I simply sat in my assigned seat and ate as much I could without making myself sick.
But the meal was never really the point, which I figured out as I grew older. And the point wasn’t the Santa Claus parades either. Or even the football games.
The point was gathering with family and maybe friends – to say thank you, to spend a few minutes thinking about what we have, as opposed to what we usually think about, which is what we don’t have or don’t like or can’t stand.
It’s a wonderful idea for a holiday when you think about it. Every household where I’ve shared the meal has had a slightly different version, but mostly we would go around the table and we would take turns mentioning something we were thankful for.
I’m pretty sure I said the Detroit Tigers one year – that was probably 1968, just a month after the World Series victory – but as I became older I didn’t try to be funny. I mostly got into the spirit of the thing.
And that’s what I now miss more than anything – the spirit of the thing.
The older I get, the more grateful I become. Older men tend to cry a lot, maybe you’ve noticed, and I think it’s because they finally realize, as I have, that they are blessed. I know I am blessed. I have been on the receiving end of a great deal, most of which I have not earned or deserved.
And so I am liable to tear up at the drop of a hat. I see one of my daughters looking back at me on the computer screen, through the miracle of FaceTime, and I cry. I can’t help it. I am blessed.
And then there are the grandchildren, and the career now coming to an end, and countless blessings along the way having to do with people I know and people I love and opportunities I have had for ministry and mission around the world.
My heart is full on this Thanksgiving Day, and because I won’t be able to say it with family and friends, I will say it here. Excuse me while I reach for a tissue.
(Photo: That’s Bahnhofstrasse, an important street in the heart of Zürich, on Thanksgiving evening after the Christmas lights are turned on – Weihnachtsbeleuchtung Lucy. It’s called “Lucy” because of the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”)