John Buttrick of Concord can be reached at [email protected]
There was a time, fifty years ago, when we used to travel to the family farm for Thanksgiving. The reunited family was multigenerational with conflicting political, religious and cultural commitments. However, we were able to unite around the table loaded with 14 serving plates with 14 different vegetables from the garden and a huge roast turkey stuffed with homemade stuffing.
Displayed on a side table were multiple desserts: tarts, pies, puddings, fruit, and the promise of ice cream. When everyone was seated, a hush descended on this painting. “Well, Lord, we thank you…” Without introduction, the family elder began his conversational prayer to the ever-present God. It included thanks for family members, neighbors, his pastor, the generosity of the farm, the nation, and of course, the food that was set before us. The religious beliefs of those gathered around the table were diverse. Thanksgiving was universally affirmed.
Today, the plight of our country and the world we live in can silence the voice of Thanksgiving. It is impossible for me to give thanks for life in my country and in the wide world full of war and rumors of war and with millions of refugees fleeing their devastated homelands. There are no graces for those who do not have a table or food.
I find no appreciation for the perpetual and persistent division that threatens our political, social, and cultural well-being. There is also no room for thanksgiving for the bullying, lying, guns, and riots that tend to become normal, acceptable behavior. There is no room for thanks for weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. The Thanksgiving table groans under this painful reality. There may be “no room at the inn” for Thanksgiving this year.
Of course, the door of the inn is still open to the privileged. We still have a place at the table to give thanks for our good fortune, family and friends. However, the food leaves a bad taste in the mouth as our prayers are invaded by words and thoughts such as: “We give thanks that we are not like those who suffer the slings and arrows of fortune’s affront.”
However, perhaps the realities of an insane world have blinded me to other realities. At the Thanksgiving table, perhaps, breaking bread with family and friends can open my eyes to another world of peace, justice, and goodwill toward all people.
As I give thanks to those who pass the bread, I can also remember giving thanks to Doctors Without Borders who travel to nations of desperate people afflicted by war, power-hungry leaders, and natural disasters. They administer medical care and teach healing skills to others. I can remember to say thank you for the people who support and work at Friendly Kitchen, support and work for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, and support the Family Promise of Greater Concord.
As the bread is passed around, I can remember giving thanks for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Black Lives Matter movement. I can thank the Carter Center, with a “fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering, the Center seeks to prevent and resolve conflict, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.”
As the bread is passed around the Thanksgiving table, I can remember and give thanks for the Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches in Palestine and Israel, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. I can thank Heifer International “which seeks to end poverty and hunger while caring for the earth”. I can thank the workers and volunteers of Global Ministries who join with global and local partners to work for justice, reconciliation and peace.
This list is just a small sample of the actions of people around the world to build a more humane world. Each reader can make their own list to add to the movement. I am convinced that these individuals, movements and organizations far outnumber and have far greater influence than all the conspiracy theorists, supremacists and liars covered in the daily news.
The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and 486 other hate groups may have visibility through the press and social media, but the millions of silent humanitarian volunteers and thousands of healers of people and the earth sit at our Thanksgiving tables. , worthy of our thanks.