We went to enjoy Thanksgiving at two homes yesterday in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. How many ways can one prepare pumpkin pie? Stuffing, of course, is the critical element for making or breaking the actual meal itself. I should mention the other essential piece which is whether or not the Turkey is moist. There is nothing worse than a dry Thanksgiving Day Turkey! Yes, food and football are part and parcel of our Thanksgiving Day ritual. We were fortunate to enjoy outstanding cuisine both homes.
At the first home our hosts asked each one of us at the table to offer a thought. One guest said that he was grateful to be with his extended family. Even though he only sees them once or twice a year, it is always a special treat and something he truly values. It did not matter that we did not know the other folks, except for our hosts, all of us resounded with gratitude for being with our respective families.
I am sure we all feel that way too. The truth of the matter is that being away from our family during the course of the year and traveling so many miles is not easy but it is a worthwhile pilgrimage. Our daughter and her boy friend came in from Arizona. I drove almost 600 miles from Hilton Head. Yet, sitting at that table with my family regardless of who was sitting across the table brought home that magical moment of Shalom. Oh how we need that peace and tranquility especially in these unpredictable times. One does not have to be a rabbi or philosopher to understand and affirm that family is sacred to us all.
It is frustrating that in America families are so spread out. How blessed are the ones who have their extended family members living nearby. But no matter how far apart we are and no matter how much we miss each other these moments like Thanksgiving reinforce the deep love that is there every day as it is on this special holiday.
Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday because it brings out the best in all Americans and does not get bogged down in religious factionalism. This holiday is religiously neutral. We can all give thanks each in our own way and not make one particular religion the focus. Thanksgiving is about the hope that Americans can learn how to get along with our neighbors. The pilgrims and the Indians began the narrative of a long history of diverse groups struggling to share this blessed land.
The same narrative still exists with the challenges we all face in adapting to a changing religio-ethnic base of newly arrived Americans from all over the world. Maybe if we can learn to eat turkey together we can learn to enjoy each other’s presence and respect the traditions we all come from that make up the beautiful tapestry we call America. That is the promise that our forefathers cherished because they knew back then that it would be the secret of America’s prosperity and longevity.