The rain falls straight and dense, hammering the gutters and bulkhead doors in a staccato rhythm. Stay in. It’s November, it’s the day before Thanksgiving and two days before Black Friday. Traffic is thick and edgy.
My husband and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage by spending five days in Bermuda. As we sat on a balcony overlooking a clear aqua ocean, we said, “It’s hard to believe we will be eating Thanksgiving dinner next week.” We planned to invite some folks from church, people who like us, are far from family or maybe have none. But since we were absent during the strategic pre-Thanksgiving week of planning, everyone we know has found a home, a table and the beauty of a real church – family.
Our first day in Bermuda we met some friends. A sparrow lit upon the rail of the balcony, about three feet from where I sat and looked expectantly at me.
“Hello little friend,” I said. Soon some of his family came over and I could entertain the small crowd. I was so delighted by this because here, on Cape Cod, I pour some income into three bird feeders out in my backyard, drawing mostly sparrows, but they never even say Hi. Any sound, like the gate closing, causes a sudden Whoosh! into the nearby trees, where they peek and wait for me to disappear.
The Bermudian sparrows, it turns out, are just cuter counterparts to our seagulls. They’re looking for a handout, although a large crumb goes a long way. Seagulls look like they’d scoop up your grandchildren if you weren’t watching. They’d certainly snatch the lunch out of their sticky little hands. Still, they charmed me. The longing I have for another dog is somewhat abated by my bird friends. So I was grateful for the sparrows that actually came to me in Bermuda.
This morning as I was praying in church, a young man who has been coming to church for about a year bounded into the room and fell to his knees. I love listening to him pray. He is loud.
“God, I just love you and I want to thank you for picking me up when I was all dirty! You’re still cleaning me up Lord and I love you for that!” he yelled.
Once, after several minutes of enthusiastically praising God, I heard him say, “Jesus, I just want to give you a big hug!” This man is my brother, God-given, and his grateful spirit brings me joy.
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Members of one body. Family! As I look out across my church, I see a mish-mash of colors and ages and cultures. Sometimes I hear more Spanish than English and I love that. If it were up to us we would carefully hand pick a homogenous group within our social strata. Admit it – we just want to be comfortable. But God loves to shake us up. Iron sharpens iron.
Gratitude. At the jail last night, I hesitated bringing up Thanksgiving since it was obvious all plans were off for these women this year. But something nudged me to ask about favorite foods and soon the room was vibrant with descriptions of turkey stuffing, real versus jelly cranberry sauce, apple crisp with whipped cream and an eggnog drinking contest (yes, it was a family tradition for one girl and she said she usually won). I realized that gratitude sometimes is carved out of the darkness, out of the “have-nots.” I remember a phone conversation I had years ago with a dear friend who cut my pity party short by declaring that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. I was silent for a moment while I scrambled to throw out some cliché like “I’m grateful I’m not dead,” or “that I don’t have scabies,” when she said,
“You can always be grateful for coffee creamers…you know the little ones.” And I still ponder that truth every time I pull one open and dump it into my coffee. I’m grateful.
On the shuttle bus to the airport we rode with another couple who stayed at the same resort. We all agreed that it was a lovely place. Incredible view, food, relaxed atmosphere.
“Except for those stupid little birds,” the woman said. “I could’ve done without those!” My husband dared not speak, and I couldn’t look at him because I knew I would laugh. He wasn’t crazy about the little feathered beggars either, but he loved how happy they made me. We have several pictures to prove it. I smiled and looked out of the bus window. They say one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.
We still have no Thanksgiving plans but we can be creative. One year my mother made spaghetti and meatballs and we brought it to the beach. I guess she was tired of turkey and dishes. Two years ago we walked downtown and told people about Jesus. The only people on the street were lonely people. We prayed with one man who cried. And he was grateful.
So this Thanksgiving, whether you sit at a table filled with turkey and sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff (who thought of that?), surrounded by family who will say they ate too much pie, or in a jail cell with turkey roll on a cold tray (although they do have coffee creamers – I asked them), let the peace of God rule in your hearts and then look around at the crazy people God gave you to love…
And be thankful.