Like many of you, I have lots of wonderful memories surrounding Thanksgiving. Most of them are centered around the table of my boyhood home where immediate and extended family feasted on wonderful food, binding memories, and hearty laughter.
I also remember the fall leaves (autumn comes a little later in the deep South), the bountiful harvest, the drawing of turkeys by tracing around the fingers of one hand, the skits in which we elementary students played the parts of Pilgrims and Native Americans, and the songs we sang in church on Thanksgiving Sunday. I’m not sure I can really experience the season without hearing and singing “Come Ye Thankful People, Come.”
I even remember one occasion when my family purchased a live turkey we planned to fatten and slaughter for Thanksgiving. The farmer from whom we bought the turkey placed the bird in a burlap sack and tied the sack around its neck so that only its head by sticking out. My father placed the turkey on the floor-board of our Chevrolet. As usual, I was barefoot and as I sat dangling my feet over the seat, the turkey took out its vengeance on my tender toes.
Several decades have come and gone since those impressionable and happy times. Even in the years I have lived, much has changed in our culture. As we have become more of an urban nation with less connections to our agricultural roots, perhaps we have lost some of the understanding and appreciation of the season our ancestors enjoyed. Perhaps our grandparents who tilled the soil, depended on the fertility of the earth, and experienced firsthand the blessings of our Creator cherished something of the season we miss in our day.
Annie Dillard, a writer who is difficult to characterize, has done much to help contemporary people become reconnected to nature. She marvels at the extravagant ways of this earth. For example, she tells us that a single rye plant in four months can grow 378 miles of roots and 14 billion root hairs. In one cubic inch of soil, the length of these root hairs if they were all stretched out in one continuous line would total 6000 miles!
This wonderful creation is so fertile and sharing with us. Nature is not content with “just enough.” Mother Earth is not parsimonious in her dealings with us. In partnership with God, she multiplies blessings beyond our imagination. Her generosity is something for which we can truly be thankful. But it is also something we can emulate.
The great Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran expressed this beautifully in one of his poems from his masterpiece The Prophet:
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. . .
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be giver and an instrument of giving,
for in truth it is Life that gives unto life – while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
I am glad that Mother Earth and through her the Creator are so gracious with us. But as I think of our blessings, I wonder if there can ever be genuine Thanksgiving without “Thanksliving” as we follow the example of this exquisite creation and our gracious God.
In this mean-spirited and greedy time when we are all tempted to withdraw and to withhold from others, may we remember our blessings and ask before our gracious God, “Do we deserve to be a giver to share in this fertile creation?”