Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is an almost exclusively US holiday and cultural ritual (at least as celebrated in November, my understanding is there is a Canadian version in October). It is used as a reason to get together with friends or family, share a meal together, and to give thanks for, using one of my mother’s favorite prayers for these occasions, the food before us, the friends beside us, and the love between us.

That is a simple prayer but an important one. Giving thanks should be more more than a shallow affirmation, but a deep recognition of what it means to you. It is frequently said in the presence of friends and loved ones, be they your biological or chosen family, but the recognition goes beyond those present to extend throughout your life.

So when you give thanks for the food before you, you are remembering the animals and plans that have died or in other ways given so that you may eat. Remembering their condition and what they have given so that they may be made into a meal for you. Remembering the work that went in to harvesting and raising those plants and animals. Remembering the work that went into harvesting the salt used to season them. Remembering the effort that went into preparing them. Remembering all of these things and how they have interconnected to present a meal before you.

Remembering, and being thankful for.

It means remembering the role that everyone has had in your life and, in turn, the circumstances that have led them to where they are in their lives. From genetic lineage to upbringing, to chance encounters that sway our path, to working on a project that is important to you, to being any of these things to someone who has played a significant role in your life. That, in essence, you did not become who you are in isolation.

Remembering, and being thankful for.

It means remembering not just their role in our life, but our role in theirs as well. Remembering that without pride, without judgement, but just quiet reflection on how we have made a difference in the world around us and for our friends and loved ones. Remembering that we are important, too. Remembering the relationships that exist between us and the network that they form for times of burden and times of joy.

Remembering, and being thankful for.

All pseudohistory about the holiday aside, that is what it represents in my family, summed up in a single, simple prayer.

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