We live in an insecure time.
At the airport we submit to full-body scans or humiliating pat-downs because we're scared to death of terrorists.
In our city we struggle with how to get things going again. Charlotte has always been based on people moving money around -- banks making loans, businesses expanding, new residents buying new houses. Now the money has stopped moving, and our city is in a rare standstill moment, not sure what to do next.
And at home we worry about losing our jobs, or finding jobs to replace the ones we've lost.
We're anxious and frazzled and worn out. We need time off and a safe house.
Thanksgiving is here at just the right moment.
I should say right here that not everyone finds solace in Thanksgiving. Some families spend the holidays picking at old scabs. Other people find it a lonely time. One of the nicest things you can do at Thanksgiving is to find room at the table for folks who don't have a place to go.
But for most of us, home and family are the two most secure things in our lives, and Thanksgiving draws us back their way.
Nobody I know has a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, with a white tablecloth and a turkey on a silver dish. Lots of families don't have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving -- everybody's so scattered, and people have to work, and you end up having the big meal on Friday or Saturday. Even on the proper day, people sprawl on the couch or sit on the floor or perch in front of the TV watching the Detroit Lions lose. When my family gathers at my mama's house down in Georgia, we eat off paper plates. If nobody feels like cooking, we hit the buffet at the Western Sizzler.
None of that matters in the least.
What matters is seeing how big the kids have grown. What matters is catching up with the ones who went off to college. What matters is retelling the family stories, and laughing in the same old places. What matters is that quiet moment when everyone is together and we hold hands and say grace.
Thanksgiving isn't about the good china. It's about gathering under one roof, the survivors of another year, safe in one another.
Sometimes I think we overrate security. If you live your life to minimize risk, you're never going to get much of a reward. We have to get out in the world, mix it up a little, pick up a few scars, squeeze the full joy out of this short life.
But in hard times we all need something to lean up against. And if you're lucky, the people you love and the home you treasure are strong enough to hold you.
On Thanksgiving morning, people across this country wake up in their childhood bedrooms. They hug cousins they see only once a year. Maybe they go out on the porch to have a quiet chat with a family member, to get some advice on a problem, to figure out life.
If you're one of those people, give thanks for that.
Give thanks for safe travel, even though it might have been irritating. Give thanks for the food, even though you might not like cranberries. Give thanks for your family, even though some of them drive you crazy. If nothing else, give thanks for the day off.
There is security in thankfulness, if only to remind us that the world is not all bad, and there are some safe places left. Be thankful for yours.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
We live in an insecure time.