Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. According to History.com, this is how it all began: “In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.”
We all share many Thanksgiving traditions in common: turkey, family, football, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, parades, and grace. Readers have asked me to share again a special tradition my family practices. As we gather at the Thanksgiving table, before anyone is served or grace is said, each person has two kernels of corn on their bare plate. A small bowl sits at the head of the table and Dad passes the empty bowl to his left. That person must tell two things they are thankful for, dropping a kernel in the little bowl with each thanksgiving testimony. Then the bowl goes to the next person, all the way around the table. When it makes its way back to Dad, he adds his two kernels and the bowl is filled. We join hands, bow our heads, and Dad leads us in a prayer of gratefulness for the many blessings represented in the little bowl. Then we eat and linger much longer than an average mealtime, relishing our togetherness as much as every delicious bite.
Two kernels are never enough. At least one or two people will squeeze a few thanks into one. For instance, “I’m thankful for our family, my best friend, and Lucy, my kitty,” might all fall on one scant kernel. We’re not hard and fast on the rules, though, because the point is to think about it. There are so many good things in every life, and for every trouble, someone in the world out there has it worse.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines thanksgiving as “the act of giving thanks.” I am glad for Thanksgiving because, in my opinion, we don’t thank enough. As a culture, we more-often-than-not live inward lives, focusing on the trappings and taking for granted all the good stuff. I know for myself, it’s completely unintentional. I’m just busy and don’t stop to consider the nuances and moments and everyday gifts mixed among the clutter of calendars, deadlines, obligations, and to-do lists that have no end.
Perhaps thanksgiving requires stillness. That’s a tough assignment for me. You’re probably not that different. I imagine Abe Lincoln struggled, too, and realized we all need at least one day a year to be still and dwell on the good things. Think about it. Americans were in the throes of one of our country’s darkest hours when he proclaimed this day of thanks. Remarkable. Yet, Thanksgiving Day was born because centering on even the simplest favor births hope in the heart.
On a personal note, Tim and I will be hard-pressed to limit our kernels to only two this year. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been doing something we’ve dreamed about for a very long time: becoming Dentonites. We moved to Denton County in 1996, to Lewisville where I managed the Lewisville Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and Tim worked for the City. But as of last week, we are finally home.
We began searching earnestly about a year ago for the home in which we would retire and grow old together. Since my move to the Denton CVB in 2003, our lives have unfolded mostly here. Tim is closing in on retirement now, and my favorite hobby is my work in Denton among people who are truly now fellow Dentonites. Finding our Denton home, selling in Lewisville, packing, moving – Thanksgiving’s not been a season of stillness this year. Still, we are taking time to be consciously thankful that we are finally living this dream.
Becoming Dentonites is exciting, but it doesn’t preclude the usual-yet-most-important blessings for which we require kernels: family, health, jobs, love, peace, friendship. We, every one, are granted good things and in many unique ways.
We live in America, in Texas, undoubtedly the greatest of our 50 states. And Denton is the most outstanding city and community of which to be a part. I challenge you to start right there. Then give yourself permission to be still and start counting your blessings one kernel at a time. I bet you can fill a bowl by yourself.