Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Comes Not Just Once a Year

On Thanksgiving morning this year, Chef Matt and the kids and I walked to end hunger at the Mall of America. We only made it about a mile before the walking toddler declared herself finished, so it was not, by any means, a rigorous race, but the idea was more of an installation of the value of helping people into our children's heads than anything else. It was a helpful reminder of what we have that others may not.

Because Thanksgiving is a holiday of indulgence. We give thanks for all our blessings, eat mounds of turkey and potatoes and stuffing, and then roll onto the couch for several hours of football. These are all things I love about Thanksgiving, but this year it also made me wonder, as I do every year on Valentine's Day when I am instructed by Hallmark to express my love, if we shouldn't remember to give thanks all year with the same vigor that we do on the fourth Thursday of November.

I am guilty of this. Life speeds by at a million miles an hour, and how often do I pause to show gratitude for the good things in my life? How often do I cease complaining and change my perspective? I have been thinking on this for a few weeks, slowly working on persistent gratitude for the things that, at first glance, might be more cause for complaint. Two things in particular have emerged from this reflection.

First, I am grateful that my husband has a job, and a job doing what he loves. Sometimes I get lost under self-pity and loneliness in those long nights and weekends when he is working. But I have reminded myself that he, unlike so many others these days, has a steady job to go to each week, and that while I am home with the kids, he is working long shifts to provide for his family.

And it is a business that he loves. When he describes the delicious nightly specials he has created or vents because he knows that something could be better, I know that we are lucky he is able to work every day in a job that elicits such passion. I remember six weeks when he was out of a job in 2009, and it was frightening and humbling. Now, every time I feel frustrated because he is not home, I shift gears and am thankful he is not home because he is working.

Second, I am grateful that I am able to feed my children. There are some nights that the toddler and I wage an epic battle of wills over dinner; I have come very close to a breaking point that involves me actually tossing food at her head. Other nights I feel an overwhelming guilt that I feed my children too much macaroni and cheese, simply because it is easy for me.

But despite the stubborn refusals to eat and the Mommy guilt, I know that my babies will never go to bed hungry, as long as I am alive. I strive to focus on the fact that we have macaroni and cheese to feed our kids, and that if they eat it two nights in a row, at least they are fed.

I think if we all took a closer look, we would see that our gifts are cleverly disguised as grievances. For me, it took a slow walk around a mall, past stacks of canned food for hungry people, to remind me that Thanksgiving is an everyday holiday, if we can only see past the irksome moments and find the blessings underneath.

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