In the mishmash that are my memories of Thanksgivings of the past, the flavor of turkey dressing keeps coming through. There are people creeping around in there too. A very old, bald grandfather who would come over by bus and sit in my mother’s favorite chair with a drink and a cigar and tell us stories about his days as a baseball player. An uncle who would take us across the street to a park to play football. A priest or two (Jesuits all) who would tell jokes and ask us things about school. And Mom and Dad, of course. Mom would get up at some ungodly hour and, in the style of the day, give the turkey a second death in the oven . Dad would putter around in the kitchen and shout out questions about how our football team was doing. Gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes. Mounds of food, and far more time at the table than was our custom. And the famous family dessert, cranberry pudding with a buttery sauce that my younger brother would later quietly invade in the refrigerator and drink all by itself.
We had all of that in an atmosphere of the world always improving. It was a naïve thought, I suppose, but that was what was happening in our family. Dad’s law practice was always getting better, and we children were all growing and learning and heading for higher callings, for teaching and preaching and various professional lives.
In the real world, on the streets on which we live and work and walk our dogs, not much has changed. True, the political world in America is in chaos, and there seems, in the tone of the news, an unwanted mixture of fear and division. Still, we go to work and walk our dogs, and the things that do concern us — the economy and the environment and such — do not much change our Thanksgiving days. Aunt Emma will still bring her fancy vegetable dish that everyone will gush over, and Granddad will insist that this year his team is definitely going to win the football game, and brother Terry’s oldest child will spill cranberry juice all over the tablecloth.
It is all of that for which I am thankful. I am thankful that, on this day, a good friend will be in his third week of alcohol rehabilitation. I am thankful that another good friend will spend the day recovering from the chemotherapy treatments that look likely to keep him with us. I am thankful that my daughters have beautiful warm homes and are trying their very best to make their world a better place. I am thankful that my wife and I have a quiet and comfortable and friendly place to live.
I am thankful for far too many things to list here, but they are all the little things that make up my life, things that far too often I just take for granted. The chaos of our political world, and the sufferings of those far-too-many people who are the victims of hunger and poverty and war draw in stark contrast how much I have been given. There are so many such things, I have been given so much, that, as I sit here this morning, I am ashamed that I spend so much time wanting more. Thanks giving cannot be real unless it is accompanied by a profound awareness that this abundance we have needs to be shared.
I have often observed that, if anyone suffers prejudice, then we all do. No one is free unless we all are. That is the real American ideal. Just so, if there are others, and there most certainly are, who suffer from poverty and hunger and war and disease, then we all do. What I am really thankful for, then, is that I live among people who, deep in their hearts, want a whole world without that awful deprivation and suffering. There is our hope, and I am deeply thankful for all those people.
So, over all, I am thankful for you. And the dressing of course.