Thanksgiving is a special time for my family. We come together, we enjoy each other, we catch up on the current trends, jobs, family, retirement, travel, children, trials, etc. Then the conversation always moves to growing-up tales, and they become more animated depending on who is talking and memory.
This year will be particularly special: Joseph, my youngest brother turns 50. We are planning to surprise him with a birthday celebration, but we are also planning a family portrait, the first since my father’s death, and all five of the siblings, with spouses and grandchildren, will celebrate with mom. A great time is coming.
We hold traditions close and loose, so even though we are coming together for Thanksgiving, we are not cooking. This is a challenge for my mom, who looks forward to all of the kitchen activity. We will have kitchen activity but this year we ordered dinner. We will watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, argue about the best team, take naps and maybe even play a little football.
This will make the fourth time we have been together this year. We have celebrated the outstanding work of two of my brothers' careers; we have celebrated graduations — both college and middle school — and we celebrated the life of a family member who passed on. Thanksgiving we will gather to celebrate and give thanks for all the Blessings that we have been afforded by God.
It’s been a fast year, full of joy and pain. But both the joy and pain have helped us in our spiritual development.
As special as this time will be, I cannot help but think of a family friend who was disqualified for her benefits/services this year. Just after the government shutdown, she lost her benefits. No insurance, no food stamps, she turned off her cable, limited her telephone use and utilities.
Her one check per month was reduced from $600+ to $329. In October she had to survive on $29. Her rent is $300 per month. But God is Good! After a review her living expenses were increased to $564, now her rent will be reevaluated based on her living expenses. The church family has gathered to support her as they always have.
She will join us for Thanksgiving as she has in the past during other holidays. She will continue what she always has done even on these limited funds — send birthday cards, Christmas cards, remember anniversaries, illnesses and death. She will continue to tithe. She will continue to give thanks.
On this Thanksgiving Day we give thanks to God for all God has given us.
Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks.
Andris Salter is Assistant General Secretary, Mission Opportunities, for United Methodist Women