Thanksgiving blessings! I hope and pray that whatever your Thanksgiving looks like this year, you make space to hold disappointment and grief so that there is also room for gratitude and joy.
This week is always a strange one. Today, the day before Thanksgiving is also the Wednesday before the first Sunday in Advent. And this year, it all feels so different -- almost less somehow. Our usual Thanksgiving traditions of travel, large gatherings around tables overflowing with food, time with family, Black Friday shopping or opting outside are not possible or bear such added risk.
And yet, there are some things that will be the same. We bring our same selves to those tables. With our griefs at the spaces (at our tables or on our Zoom calls) that are empty this year of death, distance, a falling-out or pandemic. With our disappointments about a year that has been nothing like we expected or hopes and about the personal, professional, national or global hopes that we held. We need room at our tables and in our lives to hold and honor these losses, hurts and sorrows.
Because only if these are held will there be room at the table for the other things -- love, joy and profound gratitude. Gratitude for our own lives and health. For the relationships that have become more important than ever. For the beauty of this planet we call home. For the marvel of modern technology that allows us to host people from across the country and around the world at our virtual Thanksgiving tables. For the little things, the silly things, the mundane moments that sometimes feel like a pain but are in fact a privilege. Like getting to brush your child's teeth or accompanying someone you love to the doctor's or raking leaves or watching birds or doing countless household tasks that make our dwelling places home. Gratitude does not exist apart from grief and disappointment but alongside them, like the bulb within the hard winter earth with the memory and the promise of spring irises. Like the sun whose rays reach through storm clouds like fingers of light. Like the rainbow that cannot exist without both sun and rain.
Poet Davide Whyte writes:
"Gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us.... Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair....
"Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table as part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences."
So, as we prepare for Advent -- a season itself of preparation, a season of uncertain journeys through deepening shadows -- let us pay attention. Let us give and receive a generosity of presence as we participate in and witness the miracle that is life. Let us prepare our hearts to hear the good news the prophets offer. Let us, dear friends, give thanks!
In humble gratitude and great love,
Reference: from David Whyte's book "Consolations"