There is a lot to like about Thanksgiving. I love the fact we don’t buy each other gifts. You don’t have to draw names in advance. You don’t have to get a loan to celebrate Thanksgiving. You buy some food, make it, eat it and clean it up. Simple. Come to think of it, this year you may have to get a loan to buy food.
I love the fact that we have one standardized Thanksgiving narrative (regardless of historical accuracy) and we stick to it. I am glad we don’t have fictional stories on Thanksgiving. No one wants to hear about the Thanksgiving Puritan riding in a magical Buggy pulled by steroid enhanced turkeys who travel all over the world on Thanksgiving Eve delivering especially appreciative children cans of canned, gelatinous cranberry sauce and tossing in corporately sponsored can openers.
Thanksgiving is about turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, your Nana’s special dish and desserts made of pumpkins, cherries and pecans. It is about family, friends and football but most of all it is about taking time to remember. Thanksgiving is where we have conversations with the memories of people long since gone who sit in empty chairs. We can see them. We can smell them. We smile at them and they smile back. Thanksgiving is when we laugh when we want to cry. We used to sing a song at church called, “Count Your Blessings” and for me, Thanksgiving is a time to do just that. “Count your blessings, name them one by one.”
With Halloween out of the way and November upon us, there are twelve hacks that might make your Thanksgiving Day better:
1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. Set a timer. No one leaves. No one. “Are you done eating? Who cares? Sit.” 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. Violations can carry over until next year.
3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. Have the patriarch or matriarch do it. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.
4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out the names of deceased loved ones before saying grace. Remember their lives, place in your family and their sacrifice.
5) Tell your favorite 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. When the dog ate the turkey. Get out the old photos. The kind you don’t have on your phone.
6) Laugh. A lot. Tell your funniest family stories. Make them better than last year. Let new people 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. Have people share one thing for which they are thankful right before dessert.
8) Love. Tell the people around your table just how much you love them and tell them why they are special to you. There are no guarantees they will be here next Thanksgiving. Or you either for that matter.
9) Help clean up and stick around. Clear the table. 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. Drink more coffee.
10) Give thanks. Find a moment to get away, drop to your knees and personally tell God thank you.
11) Don’t talk politics. If anyone does, construct them a home-made political button denoting the opposite party and touting the name of their least favorite president of all time. Make them wear it all day. No button, no pie.
12) Make the best of things. Things will never be “perfect.” Take what you have and make the best of it. “There is no whining on Turkey Day.”
Hope this helped a bit or at least amused you mildly. You wouldn’t want to eat the turkey and dressing, gobble up the pie and miss the point.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.