Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Thanksgiving, a moment of security

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.


Unknown said...

I'm forever thankful for every Thanksgiving. When I moved here from NJ with a 6 year old boy and a husband whose job came here via Royal Insurance, our first year was spent in NY as we had only been here from August. The next year we moved into our house and our wonderful neighbors down the street (circa Minnesota and Pa)invited us to the 'Orphan's Thanksgiving"...basically anyone who didn't have family in the area were invited to their home. It is now on to 23+ years and we still celebrate together. Since that first Thanksgiving, I've lost my husband to a brain tumor and my son is now 31 married to his college sweetheart from Greensboro. She now takes over the role of Gravy Maker that my husband once had, plus the sweet potatoes. She's been doing this for almost 10 years.
Traditions can be a family event, or what your family becomes after time. For that, I will be most Thankful and more importantly, most grateful!! Marie Colonna

Lynne Stevenson said...

AMEN, Tommy! I could not have said it better myself. Some of us don't have any real biological family left and have to adopt them as we go along to celebrate the holidays. Please hug your Mama for me when you see her on Thanksgiving. Be grateful and thankful that you still have her, because a lot of us out here in the cold cruel world don't have ours' anymore.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Tommy.

Leslie Richardson said...

I could not have said it better Tommy. It seems that the holidays get celebrated for the wrong reasons and the world is worried about what they are going to eat, wear or what gifts they are going to receive. I hope everyone takes what you have said here to heart. There is so much to be thankful for.

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