I remember when I was a kid, well meaning adults would often remind me of the starving children in Africa when I didn't clean my plate."You should be grateful you even have food."
I think this was one of my earliest introductions to fake-thanking. The obligatory 'thank you' was taught because our natural instinct is to forget we only have what we do by the Grace of God.
If you think about it we were all trained early on. The last thing my mom would say to me before I went to a party was "remember to say Thank you."Thank You" cards are the second thing you learn to write, proceeded only by your name. Thanksgiving, though became the biggest obligatory 'thanks' in our lives. We gave little speeches about what we were thankful for, my mom even teared-up a couple of times. I understood the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving, but I never really understood what I was missing by being a 'fake-thanker'.
Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, I awoke in a hospital bed...alone. I was not thankful. I was six and a half months pregnant,miserable after almost six weeks of bed rest, and covered in a rash from head to toe. My family was having Thanksgiving at the grandparents, playing with cousins and eating too much. I was having rubber turkey, and white rice because my kidneys weren't working and potatoes aren't on the diet. I couldn't have pie, rolls, stuffing, or any other treats because of the diabetes and to top it all off...No one else in the hospital was any happier than I was. It loomed like a black cloud over the whole place.
One of my favorite nurses, Vicki, brought me my meager lunch, patted my hand and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, honey."
"You, too," I replied automatically. "I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one."
With a smile on her face she told me how she'd get off of a 12 hour shift, go home and heat up a Turkey frozen dinner and wait for her son to call. Her eyes lit up when she talked about how he was stationed in Afghanistan. Because of the distance, the military, the satellites and a myriad of other things, she didn't know what time he'd get through. She said it didn't matter. She'd stay up all night if that's what it took. She'd volunteered to work Thanksgiving day to give the other nurses time with their families, because she just needed to be home before 8 p.m. to hear from her son.
"I'm so thankful," she said with tears in her eyes, "for the invention of satellite phones. I couldn't survive this time of year without the chance to hear his voice...even from thousands of miles away."
Perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood what Thanksgiving really meant. It's not a chance for us to bask in our riches, gluttony, and self absorbed accomplishments, with a nod of 'fake-thanks' to God for allowing us such privileges. It's not about the food, the company, or the fun. We can be thankful for all of that and more, but do we feel it? Does it fill our empty hearts as well as our empty stomachs?
After Vicki left my room that day I sat and cried. I thanked my Heavenly Father for children I was never supposed to have, for a husband with enough courage and perspective to see beyond today, for a baby, alive, happy, and kicking my bladder, even though his life wasn't supposed to be possible.
We take so much for granted in our fast-paced, self indulgent world. If the turkey is too dry, or the pie was burned we whisper under our breath that Thanksgiving was just Okay this year. When we go around the table and say we're thankful for our I-phone, or the new big screen, or even for good food, are we 'fake-thankers'? Is it just our obligatory training kicking in?
If its not, if you're one of those people who 'feel' gratitude fill your heart and soul at Thanksgiving, you are the lucky ones. If you've forgotten what lonely, depressed, scared, hungry, or abandoned feel like...then you're even luckier. Gratitude is a gift from someone who loves you. It's an expression of your worth in their lives. When you feel the thanks and love of those around you this holiday season let God's infinite power and love fill your heart as well...and remember to say Thank You!
Have A Truly Happy Thanksgiving!