What Makes Life Worth Living on the Most American of All Holidays
Reflections for a day of joyful feasting and family.
November 27, 2008 - 12:00 am
But Thanksgiving was more than being about food. It was the togetherness, the familial bonds of intimacy where family stories were told and retold, everyone laughing at the same places in the stories every year or even the same grumpy gus of an uncle putting a temporary damper on the proceedings every holiday by being deep in his cups. You knew, even at a young age, that this was what life was really all about. This is what made life worth living — an unbreakable connection with those who shared your genes or were welcomed into the sacred circle by dint of marriage and hence, love extended freely to include what otherwise would have been an outsider.
The older I got, the more I realized that not everyone came from a family that shared that kind of kinship. I imagine it is even less common today what with divorce rates what they are and family ties not massaged and tended as they once were. Indeed, the bonds that still tie me to my family were nurtured and fed as one carefully cultivates young sprouts. Dinners at relatives’ houses were a huge part of growing up in my family. In addition to the holidays, every baptism, first Communion, confirmation, wedding, funeral, and ordination, saw the 12 of us get in the old station wagon and make what seemed like the endlessly long trip into the city or some far flung suburb to renew and strengthen the family ties — a reaffirmation and reinforcement of what fills the soul with joy and makes possible a good and happy life.
This Thanksgiving finds us all a little worried, a little distracted by what is going on in our country and the world. We fret about the future. Our concern extends to our children and we wonder what kind of America they will grow up in. We’re concerned about our jobs, or our businesses, or our pension and savings.
What is there to be thankful for? For most of us, it must be the blessings and joys that being part of a family brings us and how that connection sustains us, warms us, and embraces us so that the world’s troubles are kept at bay. As long as we have each other, the storms outside of our little familial cocoon can’t really wash away anything we can’t afford to lose.
All the wealth in the world can’t buy what you will have in front of you at the Thanksgiving table today. All the security that could be granted by all the armies in the world won’t make you any safer than you will be today in the warm embrace of those whose love is given unconditionally and without artifice.
Perhaps when things are blackest, a reminder of where the light is shining brightly will bring us peace and allow us to recall why we were placed on this earth and what makes life the joyous adventure it is.