In recent years, I’ve become conflicted about Thanksgiving.
Let me clarify: I’ve become conflicted about the idea of Thanksgiving the way it was presented to me as a child. Back then, I accepted the cartoon version of pilgrims and American Indians coming together harmoniously, sharing the fruits of the land in a feast of plenty. It was a Peaceable Kingdom of sorts where everyone got along beautifully, all differences set aside for the sake of celebration and a hearty meal.
In time, however, I began to be challenged by that version of Thanksgiving. I realized most American Indians likely were not rejoicing over the history of their having been descended upon by the European “white man” and life as they knew it destroyed. Although I realize there were many peaceful encounters during those earliest years, there were many others that ended in bloodshed. To some, it was closer to Holocaust than Happy Days.
So I can no longer, in good conscience and with respect to my friends from the reservation where I grew up, be satisfied with “that” Thanksgiving celebration. At the same time, I’ve come to a place of peace within myself over what this holiday means — to me.
Let’s start there. Holiday. Holy Day. Even though I challenge the traditional story of Thanksgiving as a cause for celebration, I still believe there is merit in maintaining this Holy Day in its own right. Certainly not because of the bloodshed of the American Indian but because of another who shed His blood.
The Last Supper scene from Passion of the Christ
I’m bringing it all back to Faith. Eucharist literally means Thanksgiving. As such, the real Thanksgiving was instituted at the Last Supper — the real holy feast. In that banquet we were given the greatest gift of all on earth — the promise that God would be with us until we could be with Him again in eternity. Every time we partake in the Eucharist, we receive an injection of grace that has the potential to help us move through the suffering of this world with hope in our hearts.
So while I reject Thanksgiving as it was first presented to me, I heartily embrace the notion of a celebration that acknowledges love, family and a coming together to remember the awesome gifts we’ve been given: one another, one more day, and a God who loves us with such depth that He would not consider an earthly exit without leaving a tangible part of Himself with us.
I also find it the perfect time to think of those who cannot come together and feast, who do not have the gift of a warm home with all the necessities. This includes many of the poverty-stricken on the reservations across our land.
Lord, thank you for all of my blessings, including life itself and the richness of a life lived not for earthly treasures but spiritual vitality. Thank you for all the trials I’ve come through to bring me to this place of deep and true gratitude. Help me to help others find peace and contentment, especially through knowing You and your deep love for all your children. Amen.