If you were to ask any American first grader the history of Thanksgiving, they would proudly relay the story of how the pilgrims came together with their native American friends one fall day nearly 400 years ago to celebrate the harvest. There’s lots of factual wiggle room in this “historical” account of what happened, and the truth is that the idea of an official day of Thanksgiving is not unique to America. For instance, days of Thanksgiving were first purposed in the 16th century by the protestant Reformers after they had done away with the holy days of the Catholic church. They still believed that God should be thanked for what He has done in our lives, but holy days were out.
No matter the historical background we claim as our own, it’s important to take time to thank God for all that we have. I have to confess, though, that I rarely stop to consider what I am truly thankful for. That’s why my wife Mary asked me yesterday to do that very thing.
So here we are.
I am most thankful for Mary. It is because of her that I look forward to coming home, and it is with her that I can laugh and truly be myself. God smiled on me when he placed us together. She truly brings out the best in me. The very existence of this blog post is a testament to that!
It is also my dog Sidney, and before her Sullivan, Sloane, and Pilgrim, that I come home each day and feel totally adored. My dogs make me feel like I am special no matter how I have messed up in the human realm during the day. That kind of unconditional love is what everyone needs. Animals are truly a gift.
Although my mother died when I was only 19 and I have not lived with my father since I went to college, I very much realize that they helped form into the person who I am today. My parents were the ones who gave me the most formative experience in my life – my education. Because of my education, I will always be able to extricate myself from dire situations that we all encounter in our lives. I am thankful to my parents for giving me all of that.
I am thankful for those things that have proved a distraction to me in life, especially sports. When I was young, I played some kind of organized sport every day. As an adult, while not as obsessive as I once was, I love the distraction it gives me to cheer for the University of Memphis Tigers and the Memphis Grizzlies.
I am thankful for those people who have stood alongside me and helped form and shape the work of the Church Health Center. These are the people who believed enough in me to mentor me: Jack Anderson, William Sloane Coffin, Michael McLain, Frank McRae. I am also thankful for those who have worked tirelessly beside me – there are too many to name – and those who have given their resources to help move our mission forward financially. Without any of these, I am not sure how my own life (not to mention that of the Church Health Center) would have unfolded.
I am thankful for two technological developments in my life time: TV and airplanes. Why television and airplanes? Both expanded my world in unforeseen ways. Because of television, I watched people walk on the moon. I understood the senselessness of war. I saw powerful dramas I might never have been exposed to. And of course, because of the television, I have watched the World Series every year since 1960! Because of the modern miracle of airplanes, I have been able to travel around the world and see beautiful places and people. Travel has helped teach me that my small place on this world is not the most important.
I am thankful for God’s creation. I fully realize the world can be cold, bitter, and violent. I also realize that almost everything that is truly beautiful comes in some way from the created world.
Lastly, I am thankful for my sense of purpose. I believe that it comes from God in a way I cannot fully comprehend, and as a result I lack the words to adequately explain it not only to you but also to myself. I have simply felt called to serve my whole life. I am left only to accept my call to serve the underserved.