1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. Set a timer. No one leaves. No one. And not a bit of dessert or a sip of coffee for forty-five minutes.
2) No phones at the table. None. If you look at your phone, it goes in the turkey carcass with the stuffing until supper. If your phone rings, you are doing dishes. No exceptions.
3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.
4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out their names before saying grace. Remember their lives, place in your family and sacrifice.
5) Tell your favorite family Thanksgiving stories. The year of the huge Thanksgiving blizzard. The year when it was like summer outside and everyone went on a walk. The big family football game of 1972. The sweet potato casserole debacle of 2001. Get out the old photos. The kind you don’t have on your phone.
6) Laugh. Tell your funniest family stories to the new people around your table. Let them laugh their way into your family!
7) Count your blessings. Slow it down. Focus on what you have in front of you instead of what is missing. Literally feel the blessing!
8) Love. Tell the people around your table just how much you love them and tell them why. There are no guarantees they will be here next Thanksgiving. Or you either for that matter.
9) Help clean up and stick around. Watch some football. Remember great Thanksgiving football games past! Take a nap. Go on a walk. Drink coffee. Just don’t go shopping. Don’t encourage retail business to do the wrong thing by staying open on Thanksgiving. Those retail workers need Thanksgiving too. You can shop on Friday.
10) Find a moment to get away, drop to your knees and personally tell God thank you. Count your blessings! One by one!
11) Don’t talk politics. If anyone does, construct them a home-made political button denoting the opposite party and make them wear it all day.
12) Your holiday may well be adjusted for COVID-19 this year. Do what you have to do and make the best of it. “There is no whining on Turkey Day.”
You wouldn’t want to eat the turkey and dressing, gobble up the pie and miss the point.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairveiw Heights, IL.