By Jason & Sarah Kidd
With four healthy children, an amazing wife, and lots of extended family, I have plenty to be grateful for. However, business often distracts me from truly savoring these gifts in the manner they deserve. There are projects to accomplish, lists to be completed, the looming whispers of “hurry and get ready for Christmas”. It’s hard to avoid getting sucked into the rat race and lose sight of what is important.
For me, much of the problem centers on a desire for good but with a lack of resources. There are only 24 hours in a day and a fixed budget to do everything that needs done. We are all pulled in many directions: family, work, school, home projects, relatives, church, sports, PTA, friends, and Pinterest ideas. The race seems to have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, on every day of the week. It is refreshing to just “sit and be”. Perhaps that’s why Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday for Americans; because it reminds us to slow down, or pause altogether, reflect on our blessings, and share a meal. A meal prepared with love, cooked in an oven for hours, eaten with real dinnerware, enjoyed together at the table, in the company of those with whom we share more than just genes. It helps us reset, offer thanks for all we have been given, and remind ourselves of the purpose of life: relationship. It reminds us where we have come from so that we can better navigate where we are going. This time together with no agenda (or what Matthew Kelly calls “carefree timelessness”) glues our friends and family together. It also re-energizes us when it’s time to go back to schedules and life.
Focus on Relationship
As we enter into Thanksgiving weekend, be intentional about relationship. Be present and connect with your family. Maybe only watch 1 or 2 football games and instead play some games (actual football outside) or some board/card games. Cook together and share recipes. It’s easy to reduce Thanksgiving to the actual eating of the meal, but this year, why not prepare, eat, and clean up together? This creates memories and traditions. Divide and conquer the feast by making it a potluck and allowing everyone to contribute. Simplify by remembering the goal of spending time together as a family. Don’t compare with everyone else and definitely don’t Pinterest yourself to death. It’s okay if not everything is perfect and there are only four side dishes.
When we take a moment to reflect and enter into quality time with our loved ones, gratitude often follows naturally. For me, that looks like four rowdy kids in pajamas running in circles around our house while my wife and I clean up the dishes after a breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Hardly quiet, serene moments, but I am so grateful for them. Make a list as a family of all the things, people, events, and moments you are thankful for. Start a gratitude journal. Brave a weekday Thanksgiving Mass as a family, with all the “joyful noise” it brings. Celebrate the Eucharist (our Thanksgiving), for all God has done for us. Pray in gratitude for all our friendships. Fill a jar with those prayers of gratitude in order to serve as reminders over the years. Re-connect with people from your past who have influenced you. Allow everyone in the family to participate.
With a grateful heart, we can more easily see those around us and around the world who need us. There are so many ways to serve, whether you are single, married, or have 6 young children. From baking bread for a neighbor, to inviting that neighbor to dinner, to packing lunches and handing them out to folks who may need meal downtown, to serving at a local soup kitchen, there are many options. Buy a turkey for a family in need here in Oregon & deliver it through your parish or another non-profit. Send jackets to organizations collecting them this winter for refugees across the globe. Sometimes, we don’t need to look any farther than our immediate family to serve. Perhaps the ones who God calls us to serve include our grandparents who are in an assisted living community or an aunt who is battling depression. As a family, much can be done. This love in action is what makes a family and, in turn, helps to usher in the Kingdom.
Slow down, focus on relationships, be grateful, and serve others. Let all the hustle and bustle and to-do lists melt away for awhile, if only for a day. God is good. Happy Thanksgiving all!