Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

   Off to the supermarket to pick up a couple of last minute additions to my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to walk rather than drive in order to fully enjoy the beautiful day. The sun was out and a strong breeze made the nearly 90-degree temperature feel quite comfortable - thankful. As I walked, I thought about all that was surely taking place in the homes of my family and friends in the United States: ovens preheating, turkeys brining, pies baking, family members traveling, pets scrambling to find a solitary place among the numerous visitors or trying to avoid being stepped on, refusing to leave the kitchen, waiting for the inevitable scrap of food to hit the floor. I thought about the smiles and laughter, the nicknames and inside jokes that only family and close friends share. I thought about the cups of coffee, now taken with a splash of eggnog, as the oldest and the youngest (and some in between) find a comfy place to snooze after the meal – thankful. And, I thought about the friends with whom I would share a meal this evening, the North Americans and Salvadorans who have become like my family over the last two years in El Salvador. I thought about how amazing it is to have developed this community and what a blessing it will be to celebrate together by giving thanks.
 Entering the supermarket I half-way expected the lines and the urgency associated with obtaining last minute menu items at one of the few grocery stores open on Turkey Day in the States. I was pleasantly surprised to find the “super” no busier than any other Thursday. Usually I try to avoid the canned food and import aisles, forcing myself to cook with fresh vegetables and local ingredients. However, in honor of the holiday, I had given myself permission to seek out the fixings for my beloved green bean casserole…wherever they might be. Milk and mushroom soup mix were easy to track down, and I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that French fried onions would have to be improvised, but to my shock and disbelief canned green beans were nowhere to be found. I chuckled to myself as I placed a bag of locally-grown ejotes (green beans) into my basket. Evidently, food sovereignty doesn’t take holidays – thankful.
 After the customary looks of confusion at check-out as I request that my groceries be loaded into the cloth sacks I bring with me rather than plastic bags, I made my way to the exit. I contemplated the additional steps that my favorite Thanksgiving dish would now require as I crossed through the parking lot and out to the street to walk the five blocks back to my house. As I passed the bus stop I was pulled out of my daydream of pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and thrust back into reality.
 A young woman had just gotten off the the bus with her daughter in tow. As they shuffled toward the corner the woman was approached by a kid in his teens, held up with what may or may not have been a pistol in his pocket, and had her wallet and cell phone stolen. All this took place in matter of seconds, in broad daylight, at a busy intersection, and right in front of me! I was in shock; I can’t imagine what the young woman must have been feeling. Seemingly unshaken, the young mother scooped up her daughter and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Unsure of just what kind of assistance I might offer in a moment like this, I decided I had to at least ask if or how I could help. As I got closer I overheard the little girl asking her mother; Mami, ¿y ahora quĂ© hacemos? “Mommy, what do we do now?” I will never forget her reply: Damos gracias, mi amor, damos gracias. We give thanks, my love, we give thanks.
 Not because today is Thanksgiving, not because this day has been set apart that we might remind ourselves of all the blessings in our lives for which we are grateful. Today we give thanks because every day is a gift, especially if it is spent with those whom we love and care about the most. We give thanks because we trust in the hope that God is making all things new, and we give thanks for the opportunity to work with God and with one another to bring about that long-awaited day.
 This Thanksgiving I give thanks for being in the wrong place at the right time. I give thanks that a cell phone call and taxi fare helped allow this family to regain a little peace of mind. And tonight at dinner I will give thanks for yams without marshmallows knowing that the marshmallows I bought went to a better cause.

16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.               1Thessalonians 5:16-18