It’s midday Thanksgiving. I have a homemade pie in the freezer waiting to be baked, a turkey breast in the fridge ready to be dressed, mashed potatoes cooking in the slow cooker (the best way to make mashed potatoes, IMO), brussels sprouts for roasting, cranberry sauce chilling, and dough for rolls setting out to rise. My husband and his mother are playing Mario Kart in the other room. It’s one of those rare quiet holiday moments in between the hustle and bustle when we can just be with each other.
Except outside my cozy apartment windows, there is a whole world out there screaming for peace. Some of the yards in my neighborhood still have their election signs up, and many people are preparing to sit around Thanksgiving tables with family members from opposite sides of the political divide. My Facebook feed is still alight with stories of violence and hate spewed from supporters of both parties, stories of people who are being attacked for their identities in streets where they used to feel safe. There are sirens somewhere in the distance. Minneapolis has experienced a bout of shootings in the last month. Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who killed Philando Castile just a few blocks away from my apartment almost four months ago, was charged with manslaughter last week. Not so far away, the water protectors at Standing Rock are trying to heal their wounds from water cannons and rubber bullets fired at them by the very people who are supposed to protect them. They will not have a warm house with an overloaded Thanksgiving table to go to today as they continue to fight the same war they’ve been fighting since that very first mythic Thanksgiving dinner between the pilgrims and the Native Americans.
For many, it’s a cold and broken Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving isn’t a Christian holiday. It isn’t part of the liturgical calendar. It doesn’t have anything to do with the story of Jesus. It’s my favorite holiday of the year, though. It’s a time of year dedicated to taking stock of all the things we have to be thankful for in the presence of family and friends. Like a form corporate prayer, we offer up our blessings, our hopes and our dreams, all together. We reflect on what we have with people who love us, challenge us, make us grow, and keep us humble.
So here is my list. I offer it up publicly to God and the world.
I am thankful for my family. For my supportive and loving husband and our fur-baby. For my caring mother-in-law who traveled to be with us this holiday. For my parents, my in-laws, and my extended family in Nebraska and elsewhere and for all the love they offer. For those in my family who have passed away and for the gift of their presence in my life, however brief.
I am thankful for the food that I am about to prepare. For the farmers who grew it. For the turkey who gave its life for me and my family. For the farm workers who labored over my food and their families. For the people who brought my food from farm to grocery store, grocery store to my kitchen. I am aware that I feed off of the work of your bodies and I am thankful and humbled by your work.
I am thankful for our first responders who work to keep me safe and healthy this day and every other day. I am thankful for doctors, nurses, medics and ambulance drivers. For firefighters and snowplow drivers. For police officers. I am aware of your service on my behalf, of the time you spend away from your family for my sake, of the danger you face and the difficult choices you are forced to make. I pray for wisdom and strength for you, so that you can continue to do what you do, not just for my sake and the sake of people who look and act like me, but for the sake of all my siblings. Be they white, black, brown, red, yellow, or any shade in between. Be they man, woman, trans, or nongendered. Be they poor or rich, housed or homeless, employed or unemployed. Be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan, or any other faith tradition. Gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Be they social justice warriors or pacifists. I pray and give thanks for your strength of conviction and body in the face of evil, for the code of ethics to which you are bound, and for your past, present, and future service.
I am thankful for our military, for your bravery in answering a call to serve and protect my freedom. I am thankful that you have strength to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I pray for you, too, for the violence you see every day. For having seen humanity at its basest and ugliest, for your service and survival. For those of you who served and did not survive. For those of you who still bear scars in mind and body for the work you did on my behalf. I pray that God will grant you strength in heart, mind, and body. I pray that though you are called to serve one country and one flag, you remember that in Christ there are no borders or boundaries, no militarized or demilitarized zones, only one body of God’s people. I pray that you are never asked to take up arms against peaceful people and protesters, and if that time ever comes I pray that you continue to have the strength to see and act on the truth. I pray for the continued wisdom of your commanders. I give thanks for your service, for your bravery, for your wounds for my sake.
I give thanks for our politicians, local, state, and federal. Thank you for answering your call to represent your neighbors and for giving your time in service to your country. I pray that your sense of justice and freedom be guided by the needs of your people and that it never be corrupted by human greed. I pray that you put aside judgments and prejudices, that you can look beyond differences in party platforms and work together for the benefit of ALL people. I pray that you never forget the people you represent, that you continue to seek out the voices of your constituents in every place, and that you act with a mind to future generations. I pray that you never allow yourselves to become complacent with ignorance and that you seek the truth from all perspectives every day of your terms. I pray for your strength and I give thanks for your service.
I give thanks for our voters. For making your voices heard. I pray that you never feel overlooked and unheard by your politicians, and that for your part you never let your vote overlook the needs and safety of your neighbors. For those of you who did not vote, I pray that you come to feel like your voice matters.
For protesters, for water defenders, for black lives matter activists, I give thanks for your work. I give thanks that you have the strength to stand up and fight on behalf of injustices towards yourselves and others. I pray that there comes a time when you no longer feel that you must fight and that peace may happen, if not in our lives then in the lives of our children. I pray for your safety. I give thanks for the inspiration you give to me and my faith. For making me aware of my own privilege. For pushing me to answer my own call to serve God’s justice. I pray for you and the pain you feel. I know that for many of you this Thanksgiving doesn’t feel any different, that you are used to the hollow feeling of thankfulness so many of us in privilege are experiencing for the very first time. I am aware that those of us in privilege ask too much of you when we look to you to make us aware, and I give thanks for the opportunities you have given me all the same.
I could go on for hours about the things that I am thankful for, but for now I will end here. What else are you thankful for today? What do you pray for? What do you bring to your Thanksgiving table?