Life is fast and full, and that itself is a blessing, but today we pause in hopes of that most precious of things: a quiet moment of reflection.
The Pilgrims were grateful for mere survival, but today we live in the land of the second slice of pie. We tend to overdo it, but we should be grateful for the opportunity.
Really it’s amazing that we have Thanksgiving at all. Look around. Look at the office or job site. Look at politics. Heck, look at sports. We complain and complain. The story is as old as the Bible: In times of trouble and want, we cry out for help. In times of ease and plenty, we quickly forget from whence help comes.
But we do have this holiday, this thing tied to an America that once was. Life on the farm or frontier was hard, risky and more than a little dangerous. So late in the fall – when the crops are in, when it seems for a moment as if we are at the end of things – wiser generations than ours said we needed to take stock. Say a prayer, have a feast. Woe be to the fattest, slowest turkey in the yard.
The cycles of the seasons don’t rule our lives much anymore, but this wonderful tradition endures. Join hands, and pray. Pass the turkey. Pass everything. Yes, little sweetheart, you may indeed have seconds, and for that we are all thankful.
Somewhere in all of this – managing the timetable of who’s coming and going, somehow magically getting everything on the table at the same time, or maybe later when things calm down – comes a quick flash of realization: This is good. It is sweet and precious, and who knows where we’ll all be a year from now, so cherish this.
Or turn on the football game. Shop early. Whatever. Traditionalists cringe, but not everyone feels bound by the old customs, certainly not by the notion of restraint. We are pulled more and more by manufactured seasons and cycles, and things do change.
I need to get with the times. At my desk hang several images, three of which are well known but old. One is “Dewey defeats Truman,” and two are Norman Rockwell paintings. After the great Kansas City flood of 1951, Rockwell and John Atherton painted “Kansas City Spirit.” You’ve seen it. A man – everyman, America itself – holds blueprints in one hand while rolling up his sleeves and looking resolutely to the work and reward of the future.
The third is this: “Freedom From Want.” During World War II, Rockwell did his “Four Freedoms” paintings. Those four – freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want – include the famed image of the family at the holiday table, with a perfectly roasted turkey in the very center.
As is commonly noted, America has moved on from Norman Rockwell. Maybe the next Rockwell will come up with next idealized image of Thanksgiving, whatever that is turning into. But let’s make sure the kids get the essence of it: Join hands, give thanks, cherish the second slice of pie.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.