Thursday, March 24, 2011

"ThanksGiving Day"

         “Why is it called ThanksGiving Day?” Spencer, my four-year-old son, asked. I told him it is our time to acknowledge everything for which we are thankful, extending our prayers to those who have many unmet needs. “For us, every day is ThanksGiving Day.”
In the United States around 267 million turkeys are raised each year. Of that total, 45 million are eaten at ThanksGiving, 22 million at Christmas and an additional 19 million at Easter. According to the National Turkey Federation, the United States’ annual consumption of turkey meat is approximately 675 million pounds.
            On ThanksGiving Day 2001, my husband, Spencer and I arrived at the Maple Street Shelter for our scheduled serving time. The shelter was abuzz. I was assigned the task of passing out t-shirts to the shelter’s current residents. The shelter’s inhabitants were extremely appreciative of the t-shirts donated by a local company. I introduced myself to each resident, asked which size they preferred, cheerfully presenting him or her with a folded shirt.
            Toward the end of our time at the shelter, a woman, who I assumed was about my age, approached, asking if she could speak to me for a few minutes. I smiled at her and replied, “Certainly.” She explained just three months prior, Joey, her five-year-old son, was taken from her.
This woman lost her job, car, husband, home and finally, her most precious possession, Joey. She saw me playing with Spencer and reminding her of Joey, it made her cry. Her parole officer told her she could see Joey one last time. She would be allowed to watch him, through the fence at his school and silently say her goodbyes.
            Everyone she knew encouraged her to, “leave the past behind.” I told her she should go see Joey, the sooner the better. Her final image of him was his being taken from her arms by a foster care representative. I felt a healthier image for her to hold onto, would be of Joey playing with his friends.
When we finished chatting, she hugged me for a long moment. When we released each other, she said, “GOD bless you, Debbie.”  Casually, I glanced over her shoulder and saw Spencer watching us.
            Later that day, we arrived at my relative’s home for ThanksGiving dinner. All of my 40-ish cousins were comfortably sitting in one room telling jokes, having a wonderful time. While I was enjoying their company, I could not shake the image of Joey’s mother.
I stood on the side, watching my family serve themselves. I declined several offers to cut in. I was content to view the three generations of loved ones, noticing the subtle changes in each. Those changes occurred over several decades and were nothing more than what we would expect from time.
At that moment, I felt a detachment from any physical presence. It was as though I was observing each of them, sincerely perceiving them at long last. It was clear; there was a tremendous amount of history before me.
Time marches on as our bodies take on various shapes. Steps become less confident, however, our souls are still undeniably present. As I have known throughout life, the laughter, embraces and love of my family remain a constant. Standing there I asked myself, “Where would I be without this richness?
How complete is that woman without Joey?” For me, ThanksGiving Day is not about the ritual of eating turkey, gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie. It is for the emotional and spiritual nourishment I receive from these enriching people in my life. For this, I give thanks and realize how ful-filled I am.

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