Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

A Thanksgiving Story

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I feel that somewhere along the way we've forgotten we belong to each other. But then, I wonder if that has always been the case. I'm not sure there was any period in human history where there was not war, hunger or someone seeking to harm the other. Is it naïve to believe there ever was a golden age of togetherness, respect and love? Is it naïve to believe one could come?

In 2015, I made my first Thanksgiving dinner. I bought a turkey and roasted it. I mashed up potatoes, made green beans, made cornbread and bought the pumpkin pie. Most of the essentials were there, with the exception of sweet potato casserole. But I wasn't bold enough to make that quite yet.

With all of the food on the table, we sat down to eat. Before we started, all of us went around the table and said one thing we were grateful for from the past year. To me, it is not Thanksgiving unless you practice giving thanks. Without that, it simply becomes another meal at the table - albeit a nice one.

Making the meal took a lot of work. One has to prep the turkey, season the turkey, pray and hope the turkey doesn't burn or taste terrible once it is done. One has to cook the potatoes, the green beans, the cornbread, and kill a few sticks of butter in the process. It is one big dance that needs to come together at just the right moment, so nothing is left sitting too long to get cold. I cook often, so even though I know my way around a kitchen, this was still a formidable challenge.

However, even though cooking the food is a lot of work, Thanksgiving is not necessarily about eating the food one cooks. It's a holiday of being thankful we have the food to cook and people around us to share it with. At its core, Thanksgiving is a holiday to remember that we belong to each other. The Thanksgiving story of the pilgrims and the Native Americans gathering around a table to share their harvest reminds us of that truth.

I love stories. I love nestling up to my son and reading him the classics:Winne the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Charlotte's Web.I love their interesting plots and the meaningful lesson at the end. Jesus loved stories too, I think. He told them often and they always had a meaningful lesson - even if those listening did not always understand.

The course of human history is certainly a story, and our lives are one small chapter or maybe just a few lines. Intertwined in our story, undoubtedly, are the holidays we come together and celebrate. If I opened that book to look back and see that a couple of times a year groups of people came together from all over to share a meal, tell stories, laugh and give thanks - I wonder if I might see that as a moment when the world remembered it belonged to each other.

It may not be naïve after all to believe there are times in human history when we remember we belong to each other. It seems to me that when we forget that truth, we should make time in our lives to come back together again and give thanks. The story of human history is filled with chapters of war, hunger and despair. Those are chapters we should read and continue to work toward resolving. That work never ends and, because of that, our coming together should never end.

So grab a seat at the table, place your napkin and pick up a fork. I am grateful for you and most grateful for those times I remember we belong to each other. 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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