The bounty of Thanksgiving can be so easily missed. Plunked where it is, somewhere between the end of summer and onset of winter, Thanksgiving is for many of us just a long weekend with maybe a too-full meal.
Those close to the land though know it is a time to harvest the crops, bring in the cattle and horses from the hills, batten down the homestead before winter winds come calling.
Others – also close to land – are the homeless and they too know all about Thanksgiving. That is when the inner city agencies – often helped by students and volunteers – bake, stew, roast and boil stomach-satisfying meals for the lonely poor and the men and women who call the North Saskatchewan riverbank home.
These dinners are usually the only time they taste food from memories past – real mashed potatoes, roast turkey, homemade pie. Sometimes they also leave with a gift of socks, gloves or toque to stop winter's bite.
What a blessing it would be if we could be like the ranchers, farmers, those who gratefully share life-saving gifts from others and know the profound power of being thankful. Do it and life itself changes.
Be grateful for that job, for many in today's economy do not have one.
Take a breath. So many cough and wheeze, gasping through their asthma or some other sort of pulmonary disease being able to take a deep nourishing breath is only a dream.
Jump out of that bed and hie off to work. And be glad. Given the downturn in the global economy, thousands, through no fault of their own, do not know the dignity of work.
But this comes with its own provision. Are you using the talents you are blessed with? That is one of my own personal terrors. Am I just scooting along – working hard, yes – but not examining maybe even searching for undiscovered skills I could be studying, honing, using?
This comes from the parable of the three men given the talents in Matthew 25.14-30. You know the one. Three servants are given talents. One five, another two and one one. The first two develop their talents, bringing their bounty back to their master.
The last one who was given one, racked with fear at the thought of not making good with his gift, buried it instead of developing it.
The master raged and told him to give his talent to the one who had five. Therein lies one of my life shadows. Do I use my all-too-ready excuse of being so busy, scrambling from day-to-day, I don't have time to take classes, go to seminars, study?
Actor, now director, Dustin Hoffman, 75, recently told CBC's Jian Ghomeshi on Q that he believed in God and went on to say he applauded people who made career changes later in life. "It stretches the soul and I think God likes that."
It felt like God whispering in my ear.
Thanksgiving is also a time to dream. Without dreams, hope becomes lost in the day-to-day shuffle. Write those dreams down. The parlance of the day is to call that your bucket list – things you want to say or do before you die. Sounds easy until you sit down and put the words to paper. That's when the mask we all wear starts to slip.
Do I really want to go to Ireland and discover the truth about my roots? Will I ever be able to live in the forest, on my own land, where the wild creatures could dwell in peace? Will I ever find my brother and make sure he is safe and loved?
The only way one can eventually cross off something on their list is by taking the first step – even a baby step – and then the next and the next until it comes true. Sound hard? Sure. But watching a 10-year-old with just months to live writing her bucket list and joyfully crossing off something she has accomplished smartens me right up.
So this Thanksgiving. time can take on a crucial significance – if we let it. Given the word, it is indeed a space where one can shut out the world and realize what one is thankful for and why.
But it can also be a time of reckoning. Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Rosh Hashanah just before Thanksgiving. A marvellous spiritual journey, it mends relationships, cleans each life slate for the new year.
Certainly we can feast. But we can also do our spiritual work too, recognize our God-given talents, and set out a schedule to use them – with thanks.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)