Thankfulness in the Face of Change
All across America, nothing says ‘home’ like Thanksgiving. Families gather together, the fantastic smells of pumpkin pie, roasting turkey, and a host of other seasonal treats fill the air, and our thoughts turn to the special blessings that only home and family can offer. Family and home are so important to us that, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, 72% of American adults live in or near the town where they grew up. Home, for Americans, is truly where the heart is.
Great Cycle of Life
Even if we stay close to our roots, however, change is inevitable. Traditions are blended, celebrations cater to varied tastes, times and places shift to accommodate scheduling needs, and Thanksgiving can become unexpectedly stressful. Furthermore, as our family circles expand, the physical spaces we have known as home may no longer be able to hold all of the new memories we make. On the other side of the equation, time-honored family traditions may lose their significance as older family members pass away. It is all a part of the Great Cycle of Life.
How do we preserve the heart of Thanksgiving when all around us is constantly changing?
Like it or not, Thanksgiving may leave us confused and frustrated if we do not embrace a new sense of home. Even the towns we love are subject to change: main streets widen, old structures are remodeled or replaced, and, in the end, the landscape changes right before our eyes. Time, too, is a factor: there is always more to be done than time to do it in as our world becomes more complex and life moves at an ever-faster pace. How, then, do we preserve the heart of Thanksgiving when all around us is constantly changing? The answer may lie in learning how to let go.
Every fall, the leaves remind us, in their blaze of color, how much beauty there is in letting go. When the green leaves have served their purpose, they put on a dazzling show before they let go of their former selves and become a crinkly brown carpet underfoot. As we search for a true Thanksgiving in these fast-paced and ever-changing times, we might do well to learn from the leaves; in short, we need to master the art of letting go of what we no longer need and focus on the core of what keeps home and family so dear to our hearts.
Start by taking an honest look at your family’s Thanksgiving traditions. Which ones bind your family together, and which ones might be ready for an overhaul? Do enough of the people who sit at the Thanksgiving table remember the founders of the traditions you are struggling to keep to justify continuing every one of them? Might any of them be adapted or combined? Might a story, handed down, be more useful in preserving family traditions, than a particular side dish? Most importantly, what are your family members most thankful for? If you don’t feel comfortable making decisions for the family as a whole, perhaps you can ask them, or better yet, work with them to decide which traditions are the most meaningful to them and then delegate torchbearers to carry the most important ones forward in future years.
Thanksgiving does not have to be a stress-producer for anyone, whether preparing the celebration or attending the gathering. Home and family are all that really matter for Thanksgiving to work its magic. Wherever you gather; however, you celebrate, that is home. Sharing cherished traditions, making new memories, and embracing change are all great side dishes for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.