If I had to choose my favorite holiday of the year, it might well be Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful convergence of fun, changing seasons, and anticipation, due to the food-centric family gatherings, the sense that autumn is about to yield to the onset of winter, and Christmas is just around the corner!
In my youthful days, Thanksgiving always meant our family would gather with available grandparents and other relatives to enjoy a family-reunion type of day filled with lots of turkey, homemade dishes, and pumpkin pies. After a brief recovery from stuffing ourselves, my brothers and cousins would usually drift outdoors to play a game of touch football. That was usually followed by watching NFL football on TV during the afternoon. Back then mid-week football on TV was an NFL novelty, as there was not yet any such thing as Thursday Night Football.
More often than not, the day would conclude by sitting in front of the TV watching whatever channel was broadcasting the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. For our family, the broadcast of this classic movie seemed to signal the official beginning of the Christmas season. In September, I had the privilege to meet Karolyn Grimes, who played the little girl Zuzu in the movie. At the time the movie was being filmed, she was growing up in sunny, southern California, with no siblings and no personal experience with snow. In the course of filming It’s a Wonderful Life, she had a chance to sample life within a larger family, and snowy weather (even though the snow was fake). Regarding filming of the movie she later commented that, “Being from the land of sunshine, it was a tremendous fascination which gave me a whole different feeling about Christmas and families.” (“Zuzu’s Wonderful Life in the Movies”, Christopher Brunell) As many know, the film highlights the value of family and prompts us to consider what truly is important in our busy lives today.
Often lost in all of the activity of Thanksgiving Day is the need to actually pause and be thankful for how one has been blessed. Even in years filled with setbacks, worries, and grief, there are things and people in our lives for which we can be grateful. It reminds me of a hymn I recall from my younger years – “Count Your Blessings.” Here are a couple of my favorite stanzas from that hymn:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s good to remind myself there is more to be thankful for than just the turkey.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!