It’s Thanksgiving Day.
No, I’m not particularly enamored of that colonizer myth about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags drilled into my head in elementary school. As a Black man in his mid-forties, there is more than a bit of resentment when it comes to the extent that White Supremacist historical revisions were programmed into my head in the name of “American Exceptionalism.” The extent to which history is sanitized so as not to offend the self-images of “Mainstream America” is sickening to me. Even the Civil Rights Movement (that my own mother risked her life to participate in) is increasingly being appropriated to uphold the very system it fought against.
This is not that type of post, however.
It’s Thanksgiving Day. I cooked the turkey during the night. At 23 lbs in a convection oven, it took a little over four hours. This is going to be a fairly low key celebration. Macaroni and cheese. Green bean casserole. Devilled eggs. Dressing. Pecan and pumpkin pies are both the Costco special and sitting in the refrigerator. A few years ago, I had wanted to start inviting more people over. All that cooking is frankly too much trouble when it’s just a few people. I actually planned not to cook a special feast two years ago, but then my brother walked in with a turkey.
Oh well… Mom enjoys it. That’s worth the hassle alone.
To hell with the colonizer myth. We celebrate Thanksgiving as a family because it has often been the only time we can even get together as a family. Between work schedules and logistics, we increasingly don’t even get that. The last few years it has been 1.) I cook, 2.) I fix Mom’s plate and my plate, and 3.) everyone eats on leftovers the next three days.
If Mom didn’t enjoy it, I sure as hell wouldn’t do it.
My apologies if you read this looking for some nice screed on “gratitude.” Don’t get me wrong; I’m blessed beyond measure and I know it. Unquestioningly. Unfailingly. Unceasingly. I could spend 5000 pages listing absolutely everything and everyone awesome in my life. I refuse to anchor the concept of gratitude to this day. Gratitude is an everyday thing.
The last 20 months have reminded me of a lesson learned almost 20 years ago, when I was in Miami Valley Hospital staring at the recently-vacated shell of my older brother: Life is precious. All life. That includes me. My life is precious. Every second of every minute that I am on this Earth is a gift that cannot be taken for granted. I have absolutely no idea how or when Jesus is going to call me home.
I don’t have the luxury of wasting my time. Every second I put out there is one I’ll never get back, so it is of the highest importance that I spend it wisely. I have to be highly selective of what I do, who I do it with, and to what end I am working toward. The worst thing I can ever imagine is to spend hours, days, months pouring and investing myself, my energy, my time, my spirit into something only to find that my efforts caused more harm than good. I don’t have time for that. I don’t have time to give away cheaply. That’s not just time I’m giving away, but my very self. I need my life to have meaning.
This is not so much a radical notion. There are probably millions of self-help books and Sunday sermons that harp on this very line of thought. And yet, how many of us actually live as if our lives are precious gifts? How many of us have bought into the notion that it is selfish to prioritize yourself? Or knowingly throw our time in with people who see as us a means to their end rather than as unique and precious Children of God?
There has been a lot of discussion of the labor shortage often referred to as “The Great Resignation.” I feel it. Why should anyone risk their lives and those of their loved ones to work jobs that don’t value them? Rich people and industries aren’t entitled to either my labor or my time. How many people are realizing that for years they have been undervalued, underpaid, and even held in contempt by their employers? Sure, money is important, but it’s a poor consolation for a shitty existence.
During this season, God has been working on me. Okay… He has actually been working on me this entire time, but I feel that He has really put me through the spiritual ringer since COVID-19 turned everything upside down. There were some habits that I know He wanted me to break, particularly regarding how I treat myself… but I believe there was more. A little bit older and a lot crankier, I’m increasingly of the opinion that He is testing me.
Will I go to Him first and foremost? Will I stand in my convictions? Will I be the person I claim to be? Will I understand my worth? Will I live my purpose? Will I betray what I know is right in favor of what is convenient? Or more politically expedient? Am I the same person alone with Him as I am when I step outside these doors? Can I weather the storm? Will I trust Him? Will I submit my will to His?
Honestly, I am not sure what is happening. There have been a slew of random and – I’ll say it – “crazy shit” that just seems to materialize out of thin air. To be clear, “crazy shit” does not mean “bad.” Most of them are actually fucking awesome but definitely fall within the realm of “No reasonable person could possibly expect this to happen.” While it has at times been a bit intimidating, I think I’m starting to welcome it… even if I don’t have a clue!
As little use as I have for Thanksgiving Day, I do appreciate and value everyone in my life… not just what you do, but who you are. It doesn’t matter what you are going through or what the weather is outside, your life is precious. You mean something. To Him, you mean everything. Spend your energy and your time wisely and fruitfully.
Sending you all the best.