Friends’ posts on facebook recently have alerted me to this: the days of November evidently invite a shared daily moment of thankfulness. Alas!I didn’t get that memo. You’ll find no daily-thankful-for-X posts from me. That doesn’t mean I am an ingrate. I am thankful. But who should I thank? Ah. A secret component of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks implies someone who provided. Who is that, exactly?
My parents provided for my well-being for all the years of my growing up. A warm house. A full table. Friends. Dogs & cats. Siblings. Wheatfields. Gardens. Laughter. Instruction, correction, denial, forgiveness, permission, encouragement, love. Repeat. For Peter & Ramona Jung, I am unendingly thankful. During the months of ‘the holidays,’ I miss them most profoundly. I could rightly thank them, and the attitude would be proper, but incomplete.
My husband, the absolute love of my life, picked up where my parents left off — not because he ‘had’ to, but because he has always counted it his privilege to love & care for me. I know no finer cheer leader. No one who puts up with my occasional idiocy, my not-infrequent rants about the injustices and/or inanity of the world we live in, my failings (which, as anyone who knows me can testify, are blatant and often embarrassing). He loves me. Should I thank him? Oh, yes. But for what? I had nothing to do with his choosing me. Honestly, I have little to do with his commitment to stay with me ’til death to us part. Often, I don’t think even my own husband can be solely credited with sticking by. Who do we thank for that?
My children. I remain stunned by their presence in this world. They came into it in the usual ways — I’m not referring to that (though childbirth is quite astonishing). My three sons were regular kids, typical teens, college attenders and graduates. They are grown too soon. Looking back or looking ahead, I am thankful for their lives. How do I, how do we, ever deserve the privilege and responsibilities and joy of parenthood?
My friends. My work. Our home. Summer breezes. Christmas trees. Words. Colts football. Coffee. Books. Music. Learning. Tears. Oceans. Renaissance drama. Laughter. Dinner out. The moon! Dogs. Snow. Victorian novels. Chocolate. Poetry. Kitchens. Movies. Shopping. Naps. The big, beautiful world.
How long is my list of ‘things I’m thankful for’? I don’t know. But I do know this: all of the ‘greatest hits’ on my thankful list depend for their existence on something other than my parents, my husband, my children, my friends, or even the work of my own hands.
Years ago, when our older two were in the early grade school years, a friend voiced outrage over a teacher’s suggestion that the first ‘pilgrims,’ having survived the hardships of the Atlantic crossing and the challenges of settlement, and having witnessed the generosity of native Americans and the bounty of provision, gave ‘thanks’ merely to those natives who helped rather than hindered their first years of life on colonial soil. In 1623 William Bradford issued a proclamation that those who had landed on Plymouth Rock should offer thanks to Almighty God for His provision. 243 years later, in the midst of civil war, Abraham Lincoln invited Americans to join him in offering “thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Well then. Directions re: Who to thank. Some of the big names in American history apparently got the memo. And passed it along!
A couple of weeks ago, we attended the premiere of a wonderful new play written by James Still, the Indiana Repertory Theatre‘s Playwright-in-Residence. The House that Jack Built centers in family — the function and dysfunction, the ‘can’t live with and can’t live without’ — you know, the beauty spots and warts that show themselves when a family gathers. In this play, they gather for Thanksgiving. The play made us laugh. It made me cry. (My husband is not much of an emoter.) Walking out of the theatre, I found myself contentedly thankful for my own family. As The House that Jack Built unfolds, through food prep, too many glasses of wine, a mother&daughter at odds, and friends whose connection has frayed through the years, eventually loved ones gather at a table, thankful. But I realized along the way that the giving of thanks, and more significantly someone to whom thanks could be given remained elusive. The ties that bind us are often found in family — parents, spouses, children. But isn’t there something more?
The novels we read, the plays we see unfolding on the stage, the poetry that leaves us breathless with a stab of longing — all of these glimmers of our own reality — beg us to ask questions. What am I doing here? What is the purpose of my life? How can I know anything? Is this right, or wrong? And who decides? How am I supposed to live with these people? What happens when I die? Is there a God? And there IS the question. Bradford knew the answer. Lincoln knew it too. And those two are relative newcomers to the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who attest to the presence of an Almighty, Whose hands have provided ‘all we have needed.’ Great indeed is His faithfulness. And great, therefore, should be our thankfulness. Today. Thursday’s Thanksgiving — the fourth Thursday in November. And every day. When you feel grateful — remember that Someone deserves your thanks. Tell Him. He’s listening.