It is easy to forget, in the busyness of the holiday season, that Thanksgiving is about so much more than eating until we’re stuffed, spending hours doing dishes, and then collapsing on the couch. Last night we hosted twenty of my husband’s relatives, whom I happen to really like. We had people ranging in age from 84 years old to 6 months old, and the four older kids (ranging from 11-13 years old) put on a variation of a show that they have been putting on since they were little tiny kids, each year adding in the younger kids and making the dances and skits harder. Since my son is the only boy in that group of kids, one year the girls decided to dress him up in girls clothes, which he didn’t mind since he was little. Sometimes there are magic tricks and sometimes singing, like when my son sang “Down On the Corner” in a Cajan accent in his sports coat and tie, with all his front teeth missing since he was only six. Most years the show involves dancing and jokes. This year, we had a 2 year-old and a baby watching the show, getting ideas for when they are old enough. To me, that’s what the holidays are about: silly rituals, a pack of kids, and all generations celebrating together.
I’m concerned, however, that some of us are missing the point. Retailers have decided to cash in earlier every year, so that Black Friday now begins on Thanksgiving. I was at the gym this morning watching the news, and there are already stories of people getting hurt in stores, fighting over discount items. One shopper even shot and killed another shopper over a coveted parking spot. Our family decided long ago that we would boycott Black Friday, since the holidays should not be about shopping; they should be about family and twinkling lights and festivals and rituals and whatever religion you believe in. What would the pilgrims think of our commercialism taking over what was supposed to be a reverent reference to them? I admire the pilgrims for their survival skills through brutal hardships. They weren’t just survivors, though. They were religious and strived to be good.
I recently read about a Muslim community who bought land a few years ago across from a church in Memphis Tennessee. The Christian community was so upset, that many people threatened to leave the congregation. The pastor, however, decided to pray about it, and realized that the best way to show their religion was to welcome the community with open arms, including letting the Muslims worship in their church the entire month of Ramadan, since their building hadn’t been finished yet. The two communities now do clothing drives and bake sales side by side and hold each other up, as friends and partners.
As we begin this holiday season, let us remember to give thanks for all of our blessings and remember those who are without, particularly the people in war-torn countries, and those who have no homes or friends or hope. One of the students at my daughter’s school is battling cancer right now, thousands of miles away from home, because Boston Children’s Hospital has the best care there is. He just found a new tumor on his leg. If you believe in prayer, please pray for Pablo. My daughter has learned so much by being friends with him.
To find your world stage, remember that the world extends so much beyond our tiny lives. And yet, we are so needed in the world. Now that the leftovers are put away and the guests have gone home, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The world is waiting.
I took this shot in a local cemetery that has beautiful trees.