Thanksgiving, in the later part of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st, has become a particular holiday.
Billed as a celebration of a successful harvest in preparation of long, cold New England winters, we have this idyllic image of Native Americans and recent foreign immigrants eating together.
That must have been before we gave the Indians blankets from smallpox victims.
Today, Thanksgiving is a Christmas preparation holiday. Merchants use it to hype the sale of things we are told we should desire but seldom actually need.
Fortunately, there is still a chance to reconnect with family and friends. Sure, Uncle Ernie is a horse’s hiny after his third glass of Auntie Ester’s elderberry wine and Cousin Sue Ann will spend most of the holiday whining about the lack of single men in her target range of age and income. Still, they are family.
If I could, I would start an empty chair tradition at the Thanksgiving table. It would have a complete table setting, but it would remain empty for the meal. Yes, I’ve heard of people who do this at Christmas for Jesus or for a lost or stranded traveler, but I see a different person. The person who never was because his ancestor died too early.
There are more than a few families missing someone whose ancestor died serving our nation. Maybe it was WWI or US Civil War or Afghanistan. Maybe it’s a fireman or police officer who made the sacrifice. Maybe they came home but are still lost, suffering physical or emotional effects from their service. Maybe they died fighting one of the epidemics like AIDS, the Spanish Flu of 1918, San Francisco’s Bubonic Plague of 1900.
Even if you are one of the lucky ones and all your chairs are occupied, I know there are family members who lost a friend that was like a brother or sister to them.
Give thanks for all the people who died so we can get together for a meal, watch over paid men play a child’s game and buy things we didn’t even know we wanted. We can also go to the church of our choice, read what we want, and speak about truth to the government. That's a lot to be thankful for!