Is love alive? I heard that line in a song on my drive back into town Thursday night. Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving celebration. A time to reflect on the year past, the blessings bestowed to us that we neglect to remember most days of the year, and a time to be surrounded by the love and comfort of family, friends, or complete strangers.
Thursday morning my dearest five year old climbed into bed with me around six a.m. We have an annual tradition of watching the Thanksgiving Day parades in our PJ’s, hustle to grab showers, and Thomas waits impatiently while I try on four different outfits. Then we hit the road for the hour long drive to visit his grandparents, and then make another two hour drive to my grandparents.
This year was a little different. We threw out the Thanksgiving Day parade watching and replaced it with the hustle and bustle of getting ready and out the door a little earlier for a volunteer shift at a local church. To keep true to my reputation, however, I signed up for the 10:30am shift, but made our way there around noon … I know, not the best thing to be late for! But it worked out in everyone’s favor. The kitchen had an abundance of volunteers until one that afternoon and then a skeleton crew for the remainder of the Thanksgiving feast. Thomas and I elected to be late for his family’s celebration and quickly updated our holiday attire with aprons and began the tasks at hand; delivering desserts, drinks, and clearing of the tables.
As I watched Thomas, so tedious in his tasks, and heard the whispers of “what a sweet, astounding young man” my heart was full of joy and skipped with delight on the true blessing it is to be his mother. He was diligent and serious with his duties; “Everyone must have a piece of dessert and a drink to wash it down Momma!” was his line of the day. The other was, “Please, leave me be, I’m working here.” He took me off drink duty quickly when he caught me red-handed enjoying a glass of lemonade. Being lectured by your five year old is not a particularly pleasant experience, just so you know …
With my duties relieved I spent the rest of the shift clearing plates and talking with those who sat alone. Small talk really; the lovely weather, the answering of the question of if that was my son at work, the delicious food being served, and the football games currently being played and what a blessing the Rams were not playing today as their horns would surely be handed to them … again …
Around two in the afternoon we gave back our aprons and something unexpected happened. Complete strangers until that day were embracing us with hugs, and praises of thanks. There was a lady in tears as she told me how amazed she was at a little five year old, and the heart he put into his work helping others. Of course, me being in the “lack of emotions” teared up with her. Seeing him through the eyes of others gave me an entirely different blessing I was not expecting. We came that day not for the praise, the pat on the back, the thank you’s never ending; we came there for the true spirit of the holiday – giving back. My time sitting with a man who had no one else to dine with on that holiday afternoon was worth every moment. When I spilled gravy on my white sweater, I found laughter instead of frustration that it was there because I served. When I watched Thomas, embracing the true foundation on what it means to help others who need it most, I knew there was no meal that could ever be plentiful enough to fill that place in my heart.
Afterwards we only went to his grandparents and warmed up our food as everyone had already eaten. I found myself silent most of the day, taking in the afternoon we gave to others. Taken in the afternoon that I would most gladly and incandescently give again. And again. And again.
Driving home late that night I listened to those lyrics…. “Is love alive?” … and undoubtedly it is. I heard it snoring in the backseat of my SUV, wrapped up in his blanket, snuggled with his puppy dog …. I saw it in the face of strangers … I felt it in a family that has taken me in as their own … I read it through the text messages and heard it through the phone calls from friends and family that day … I listened to the laughter of the moments, the smiles on faces, the gathering of those young and old for one solid purpose: Giving thanks.
This year has been a year of change, uncertainty, heartache and pain for many, for most. Some lost their jobs, others pay cuts. Setbacks, transitions, relocations, unfinished tasks, flashbacks of the past, uncertainty of the future. That uncertainty has been given more worth than it deserves.
Search around you. Look inside of you. Notice the things, immense and diminutive. I am certain there are more than an undersized number of things we each have that we are thankful for. Now hold tight to those thoughts, and take them with you well past this holiday week. Not just on Thanksgiving, but each and every day we need to be giving thanks to the highlights that engulf our days and warm our nights. Feeling the love around us doesn’t come from whose sitting at our table, it comes from inside and from the hand of God enriching our life with countless, endless, blessings. So pull up a chair and sit down. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain from a solo conversation with small chitchat on what you truly have around you, and in store for you.
As the holiday season is officially in full swing, may your blessings you remember today extend into your tomorrows. May your journey be long, but your equipment be light. May the sun always shine, the rain wash away, and each day be yours to take in the moment and leave your mark behind. May love and laughter light your way, with faithful family and friends wherever your road leads. Mostly may you find the joy and peace that endures in your blessings, in your passion in life, and in those yet to be discovered.
To you and yours – Happy Thanksgiving.