By Dinah Dutta, Chaplain
We did not celebrate Thanksgiving Day while I grew up in India but celebrated a harvest festival at the end of November. It was a church family event. The celebration was a month-long preparation. We made crafts, mom and grandmom baked goodies. We also had a harvest festival bazaar. We had a worship service focused on thankfulness. After the worship, we had a great feast. The proceedings by selling the goods went to families who are less privileged than us. The best tradition that I carry in my heart till this day and continue is my mom helping us make cards, writing the thank you notes to our mailman, milkman, teachers, doctors, Sunday school teachers, friends, and their parents, and delivering them with a box of goodies.
When I came to the U.S. almost thirty years ago, I learned how special Thanksgiving is. People travel wide and far to get together with their families and celebrate once a year. Our church family or colleagues invited us to enjoy the feast in their homes. After a few years, I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner for our international student families. I never cooked the turkey before. When I shared my desire, my good neighbor taught me how to cook the turkey. It was a great success. We have had a feast every year since then. I looked forward to the cooking and gatherings.
The theme of Thanksgiving we all know is to share, "What are we thankful for through the year?” Right?
However, 2020-2021 made it hard to focus on thankfulness. The pandemic, deaths, the politics, and the disruption of our neatly organized lives made it hard to pause and think about the blessings. I lost my beloved younger sister, a friend, and a prayer partner right before thanksgiving 2020 to cancer. It was hard for me to be thankful like many people who grieved and still grieving the loss of dear ones. I was in grief, asking why?
When I came back from India, my family at Presbyterian Manor who prayed for my sister and me comforted me. Some of our residents also passed at the same time, and comforting their families gave me comfort.
I have been pondering on what I am thankful for this year. I am grateful to you for allowing me to walk with you, pray with you, pray for you, and call you my family. I lean upon the word of God that says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Dear ones, I am learning, in all circumstances means good, bad, our struggles, and our losses.
Things are still not going as expected, but we can celebrate each day with Thanksgiving. As long as we keep thankfulness in our hearts, remembering we are together, bound by love, hope, caring, supporting each other.
I invite you to share your stories because my story becomes our story to celebrate Thanksgiving as a big family of Presbyterian Manor of Lawrence.