When someone mentions the Thanksgiving holiday, what words come to mind? If asking a child, they may say, “turkey, pilgrims, or pumpkins.” From an adult we might hear “feast, family, or football.”
For many, including myself, it seems that the word that should be first and foremost is often not. That word is, “God.”
We are challenged in today’s busy world to keep the focus of Thanksgiving on God and the many ways we have been blessed through his amazing grace, forgiveness, and Jesus Christ.
This past June my son and I went on a mission trip to El Salvador with a delegation from St. Boniface Church. On this trip we saw genuine, heartfelt gratitude shine in the hearts of those who rely on our almighty God for strength and hope.
The people of El Salvador know that happiness does not come from material things. They live in a poverty-stricken village where food and clean water are limited. Living conditions in their village are challenging. Holes in the roofs of their homes cause dirt floors to turn to mud when it rains. And yet, they were the most thankful people I had ever met.
This trip opened our eyes to the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day – or every day for that matter.
Our commercialized holidays
With the Christmas season starting earlier and becoming more and more commercialized, it often overshadows Thanksgiving. Some stores are now opening their doors for Black Friday deals on Thursday evening.
I will be the first to admit losing focus on Thanksgiving and getting wrapped up in the Christmas spirit too early.
My Christmas decorations are usually up before Thanksgiving Day, and we get so caught up in all the food, football, and mapping out our plan of attack for Black Friday, that being thankful is something simply in our hearts, but not always outwardly expressed to each other.
Changing the focus this Thanksgiving
In order to keep the focus on giving thanks this year, I am changing some of our holiday traditions.
To start, the Christmas tree and decorations will be kept in storage until after Thanksgiving Day. In my opinion, fall is the most beautiful time of the year. I really enjoyed adding to my fall décor and kept my focus on the season.
Next, I am asking family members to hold off on bringing extra appetizers and goodies that we seem to fill up on before we even sit down for dinner. Instead, my request is for each them to bring a few items we will donate to our local food pantry.
It is our family’s intention each Thanksgiving to go around the table and say what we are thankful for, but sometimes the chaos causes us to skip this important part. This year I am asking ahead of time what each of us is thankful for and writing it on our place mats. And for a deeper understanding of our gratitude, we will go around and explain why we chose the answer we did.
The trip to El Salvador taught me that when gratitude is centered on God and truly heartfelt, it has the power to bring happiness, hope, and healing no matter who you are or where you live.
If asking the El Salvadoran people the first word that comes to mind when they think of Thanksgiving, I am quite certain their answer would be, “God.”
(Sara Krohnke, Health & Wellness Minister, St. Boniface Parish)