Every Thanksgiving for the last few years has been the same. Stressing about travel plans, mad rushes to the grocery store, adorably matching outfits getting stained and wrinkled, the smell of a feast and chattering of family, and FOOTBALL!
This year, when we began to iron out holiday plans, something occurred to me. Something that shocked me, almost angered me.
I don’t like Thanksgiving.
I’m sorry! I know, I know. It’s not that I dislike the food or visiting family, or even that I really dislike the chaos surrounding shopping, cooking, and socializing. But, like so much else, the holiday has turned into such a different event than its humble beginnings. It’s not about thankfulness, anymore, despite the name. It’s about looking better, cooking better, and stuffing your face!
So this year, around Halloween, I decided to try something different for Thanksgiving. Though Thanksgiving wasn’t declared a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln did so, many cultures over many years have celebrated their good fortunes and thankfulness with feasts. The first “thanksgiving” meal I can think of is the one Moses and his people enjoyed after the first appearance of manna. How amazed must they have been? Had they not complained and whined about their misfortunes? Had they not spit in God’s face by building an idol out of gold? He delivered them out of slavery and promised them a land flowing with bread and honey, if only they would listen, follow, and obey. Seems so simple, yet they (and yes, we too) could not do it. And yet, here was this fluffy white “manna,” which literally translates to “what is it?” (some scholars maintain that the origins of the word are actually Egyptian, and mean simply “food.” I like the Hebrew version better!) They did not deserve it; certainly had not earned it, yet God still provided. All they had to do in order to enjoy the nourishment and sweet taste was to gather it. Can you imagine how thankful they must have felt?
I constantly refer to myself as a “true Israelite.” God has given me so much; a good husband who works hard to provide for the family, three healthy children, a roof over my head and food in my belly. Yet I, like the Israelites of Moses’ exodus, still beg the question “what if?” on an almost daily basis. What if I had finished school? Married within my faith? Had spread my kids further apart? He’s given me manna, yet I refuse to go out and gather it up. Not anymore. I have challenged my children and myself to look for our blessings, and to collect them. When we receive an unexpected or undeserved blessing, we wrote it down and put the paper in a “manna jar.” Then, on Thanksgiving evening, we opened our jars, turned them over, and watched our blessings pour out. And what an outpour it was! Everything from the simplest smile to the biggest gift had a place in our manna jars.
This new practice humbled me, not only to the blessings I have been given, but to the blessings I can give to others! I don’t have to have money, don’t have to have tons of time. A smile, a helping hand, a kind word; this is the manna of today. All we have to do to enjoy it is put it out there, and likewise gather it all up.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!