For as long as I can remember, every other Thanksgiving, we have taken the same picture. It consists of anybody and everybody who is present at the nostalgic old Silver Cross House we meet at each year. We line up and pile in as many people as we can on the old steps and we pose for at least a dozen pictures and half a dozen cameras.
There was one Thanksgiving about 16 years ago however that my cousin and I got left out of the famous picture. We were off having a grand time walking in the woods or down by the water when they took the picture without us.
I think we are over it now, but every time we smile on those steps I can't help but think of that picture. At nine years old I just wanted to be part of the group, but looking back I think it was much deeper. I think it goes back to the human desire to make a difference. We all want our lives to count for something. And what better time than Thanksgiving to reflect on the way we have invested in others and all the things we have to be thankful for each day.
As much as I love to make myself think about my blessings, I’ve always kind of had a mixed feeling about Thanksgiving Day. I think it is absolutely a wonderful day set aside to spend with family and eat too much food and celebrate being abundantly blessed, but it too often reminds me how many times I let a whole year pass without the sincere appreciation it deserves. Why is it that we live in one of the richest countries and we never slow down to realize how much we have in this life? Why do we think that one day is enough to lead to a lifestyle of thankfulness? I am the first to admit it; my heart needs to work on being a little more thankful year round.
Thankful for a roof overhead. Thankful for the stars in the sky. Thankful that I don’t go hungry. That I have a car and a job and a college degree and people who stand behind me. Thankful for laughter and sight and sound. Thankful for so much more than I ever could be worthy of…
One of the best things about my Thanksgiving this year (besides making it in the picture of course) was spending Thanksgiving night underneath a blanket of the brightest stars I had ever seen around a bonfire with my cousins and brother. I made everyone go around and say something they were thankful for that was uncommon. And I loved hearing the answers. They were creative and heartfelt and captured the essence of what they day had been about. One of my own answers was that I was thankful for hope.
Jim Stovall, who is truly an incredible person and author, writes about an idea called the “Golden List” where every morning you wake up and list ten things you are thankful for before your day starts. Can you imagine the difference that might make in your day if you started off humble and appreciative before you even encountered anything or anyone? I say all of this not because we don’t know how to be thankful, but because I feel like we’ve lost the art of living thankful. It needs to take root in our heart in order to expand to our whole lives.
I go back to that story of the photograph and I know inside is another lesson about life. My cousin and I were present that Thanksgiving, but we were not in the right place. And sometimes we live life the exact same way, but I don’t want to be missing from life like I was in that picture. I want my attitude, actions, words and deeds to all match a level of integrity, honor and appreciation. I do want to make a difference—one for the Kingdom. It’s not about being in a picture, but about being involved in life. Don’t miss it because you are off somewhere else mentally, physically or spiritually, but strive to live your life so that you invest in others. Live with joy. With honor. With thankfulness.
Smile, you’re in the picture of life. “In everything give thanks…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
-Only Hope-Happy Thanksgiving 2014!!!
-Photograph Courtesy of Will Parker.