Yesterday marked another Thanksgiving holiday for the USA and just like everything else this year, it looked different for most people, including me.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday of the year....maybe even bigger than Christmas! It was the one time a year that all of my family came together and intentionally spent time together catching up about the big and small moments of their lives. I remember my aunt used to rent out the local community center each year for us because our family was simply too large to gather at anyone's house! Some of my best memories and definitely some of the only photos I will ever have with some of my relatives. I'm a sentimental person who loves their family, so I cherished these moments.
I remember my first Thanksgiving away from family. In normal circumstances, I would have been so sad to be away, however, that Thanksgiving, I was helping to host a major outreach in the inner city of San Francisco where people could come, eat a hot meal, get cleaned up, get some clothes, play games, and just have a sense of belonging, if only for a moment. To this day, those Thanksgivings spent loving on the people in the Tenderloin remain my favorite Thanksgivings! (I especially loved leading the beauty area where we had stylists come and volunteer to do free haircuts and we performed manicures and pedicures on nails that desperately needed cleaning....oh, how I miss loving people in this way!!)
Then came the first Thanksgiving where I was not serving anyone and I also didn't have family around....at least, not biological family. That was a hard year. My aunt was sick with cancer back in NC and I was unable to be there for that holiday (I can't quite remember the reason). In addition, a few months earlier, I had just finished my time working at a ministry where I had formed deep relationships that now had been ripped away. It was a very challenging season, but this is not the place to share all of those details. And I was living with the most incredible family who welcomed me in as their own and who now ARE my family as far as I am concerned. They had also had a hard year. And as we sat around the Thanksgiving table, trying to make sense of our new normal, we were somber. And there were tears.
After the hard Thanksgiving, I wondered if holidays would ever be "normal" again. More Thanksgivings passed and each looked different from before, and instead of being bitter about the fact that tradition was gone, I began to learn how to embrace the moment that is present before me. Perspective changes everything!
Fast forward to 2020. This year, I had hoped to be in Nepal by September which meant Thanksgiving would be spent with people who don't celebrate it. Haha. And that was OK with me because it's not the holiday that matters so much as it is the people you spend the day with! Then hiccups kept happening and long story short, I found myself finally on a plane to Nepal the weekend before Thanksgiving....and have been in quarantine ever since (almost done though!). So this holiday that I used to treasure, this year, left me isolated in a hotel room in a foreign country with no familiar faces. And you know what? I didn't mind.
The fact that I have had several months now of potential "goodbyes" with friends and family has made me treasure each moment with them. My heart has been filled with gratitude with every single encounter. It's been like a few months of several tiny "Thanksgivings". And today as I was reflecting on that, it reminded me of how that is supposed to be our state of mind at all times. Understanding that while we hope for more precious moments, they are never guaranteed. 2020 has made us all pay a little more attention to the things and the people that are important to us. To learn things about ourselves that we never slowed down enough to pay attention to. To give us time and space to work on areas we didn't even know were issues in our lives until our routines were interrupted.
I don't know how you spent the holiday yesterday. Isolated, somber, cheerful, surrounded. But however you spent the day, it is my sincere hope that you were able to find some peace, beauty, and smiles at some point throughout the day! There is so much to be thankful for. I've run out of words sufficient enough to describe my gratitude. Keep pressing on, friends. Our fight and our journey are not yet complete!
Enjoy some photos of various Thanksgivings over the years! (Bummed I couldn't locate some of my favorites, but oh well!)