The Path to Thanksgiving
I spent most of my early childhood playing in the fields, barns and woods surrounding our home in Middle Tennessee. Growing up on family land was one of the greatest blessings I experienced as a child. The close proximity of family made get-togethers easy, and often spontaneous. My grandparents lived next to us down a winding path through the woods. The path from my house to their backdoor was shorter than the length of a football field, but for a young boy it was filled with adventure and excitement. Countless holidays began with a much anticipated journey on that path, autumn leaves crunching underneath my feet. That path led to wonderful gatherings filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
Every Thanksgiving morning, until I left for college, there was no question how the day would unfold. Breakfast at home, then a walk along the path to my grandparents house in anticipation of the meal my grandmother had been planning for weeks and preparing for days. I enjoyed getting there early and spending time with my grandfather piddling outside with whatever fancied him. I also anticipated my cousins showing up, because as an only child you cherish times when others show up to play. Eventually I’d see mom and dad leaving our house and heading down the path which meant lunch was right around the corner. Someone would bless the food, and then everyone would eat. And eat. And eat! While the kids went downstairs or outside to run off their energy, some of the adults would fall half-asleep on the couches and chairs with the Cowboys or the Lions locked in another epic Thanksgiving football showdown.
These days, plenty has changed. I no longer walk through the woods down that path to my grandparent’s house. We live in a cul-de-sac and with 4 kids, our families drive to our house to celebrate Thanksgiving. The family, as a whole, shares in the meal preparation and clean-up duties.
These days, nothing has changed at all. The kids still play outside with their cousins and my dad, my father-in-law and I have been known to fall half-asleep with the television on football. Time passes, but the path to Thanksgiving still remains much the same in the Hall household. And we still eat a lot!
Thanksgiving naturally causes us to reflect on the things we are grateful for in our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes our nature makes it hard to foster a spirit of gratitude because we have an innate bent towards comparing ourselves with others which makes it quite difficult to have a gracious, thankful heart. As radio show host and author Dave Ramsey says, “Content people may not have the best of everything, but they make the best of everything.” When we make the most of everything, gratitude becomes the natural byproduct.
A grateful spirit begins at the humble place of knowing that life is much bigger than we can imagine and that many of the blessings we enjoy are due to others. As John Donne famously wrote in his Mediation 17, “No man is an island entire of itself…” He wrote those words in 1623 while he was seriously ill.
The older we get, the more humbling it is to see the different paths that we have set upon and how they mold us into who we are today. Personally, those paths have taught me to be grateful for the things that matter the most: my faith, my wife and children, our country and those that have sacrificed to protect it and a career that fills my cup due to the people I work with everyday.
I’m grateful for the memories made and the memories to come. I’m grateful for the path I’ve walked, the twists and turns that it has brought me, and the unexpected good and bad I have encountered along the way. This journey is life.