Tinsley column: Thanksgiving during COVID
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
In a normal year, we would all gather with family around a festive table weighed down with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy and pumpkin pie. But this is not a normal year.
Many families will forego gathering for Thanksgiving this year. They are choosing a few empty places at the table this year to avoid permanently empty places for years to come. Our granddaughter was in quarantine last week at college where she tested positive for COVID.
This year, the elementary school stages will remain empty. We will miss watching children reenact the “first Thanksgiving” with flat-brimmed pilgrim hats, bonnets, painted faces and feathers. Packed rooms of adoring parents are too risky.
This is a difficult year, which makes Thanksgiving all the more important. The official annual holiday began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a day for giving thanks. He issued his proclamation in the middle of the Civil War. Young men by the thousands lay dead on the battlefields at Antietam, Gettysburg and Chickamauga. Families were gripped with grief. But a wounded nation found solace for its soul by seeking a grateful heart.
After noting the many blessings of God, in spite of the Civil War with all its suffering and severity, Lincoln wrote in his proclamation: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. … I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
In times of prosperity and peace, in times of war and want, throughout the Great Depression and the Great Recession, we have paused as a nation on this final Thursday of November to be thankful. For this one day, at least, we make sure that the homeless and the hungry are fed. On this day we give thanks for the goodness with which God has blessed us.
Nothing is more important than cultivating a grateful and thankful heart. We all experience blessing and loss. God sends his rain on the just and the unjust. The same circumstances sow the seeds of bitterness and resentment, thankfulness and gratitude. The fruit is ours to choose. The former leads to death. The latter leads to life.
The Bible is clear about the importance of thanksgiving. “But as for me, afflicted and in pain - may your salvation God protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:29-30). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. His books are available at www.tinsleycenter.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.