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Unpacking the Real Meaning of the Thanksgiving Table

We all should know by now that Thanksgiving is one of those underappreciated holidays. It’s starting to serve as the unofficial onramp for the splendid celebration of Christmas. But Thanksgiving has enough to stand on its own merit, and I’m not just talking about the benefit of one more casserole. I’m speaking (or making a plea) to the idea of stopping everything, surrounding yourself with the people who remind you of the blessing of life, and then breaking bread.

Have you ever thought about the generosity and intimacy that is involved in the action of sharing a meal?

You are in a very vulnerable situation where the provisions have to be purchased by someone, and usually, that person is in attendance. Someone is usually hosting in their home, which is a sacred place that not all are welcome into. If it’s more “pot-luck style” and everyone brings their own recipes to be shared and judged by all in attendance, that requires confidence. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving gets a raw deal; we’re uncomfortable with how it can put us in such a position of exposure.

Thanksgiving can’t be just about putting yourself in an awkward position with awkward people with whom you share a past.

It must be more, way more!  It’s a story of how you got here, wherever here is. The people who generally are gracing the table with you are not strangers. They are known people in your shared storyline. They carry pieces of your story with them wherever they go and them with you. They knew you in younger years and through awkward phases. They may have met your significant other while you were dating. You shared stories of national or world-defining moments and how that moment shaped their lives. Many times, these are viewed through different generational and political lines, which can become tenuous, to say the least.

But that’s just it.

These people probably helped shape your life into what it is today.

They knew you longer than possibly your spouse and played various roles throughout your life: some important and some in the background. But none lack value because they made you who you are today. So, thankfulness really starts with a rehearsal of the story. The story of where you came from, where you are, and where you’re going. We all have something to be thankful for because of the breath in our lungs and the promise of freedom we live under. So enjoy a casserole, and listen to a weird and unnecessary story from a relative you may only see once a year. Think how blessed we are to be here today in this moment because there won’t be another one like it.

You’re the only person that gets to experience it… ever. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 2023

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