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Giving thanks for more than food

My view of Thanksgiving has changed through the years.

As a child, I associated Thanksgiving with big meals. We didn’t have extended family living nearby, so I don’t think we ever went over the woods and through the hills to Grandma’s house. Instead it was just us. But with six kids in the family, it was still a full house.

Getting ready for Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, typically for the ladies of the house, at least in our house. I remember helping my mom the night before Thanksgiving to tear up loaves of bread for her homemade dressing and helping (mostly watching) her make pumpkin pies, cleaning up the dishes as we went.

On Thanksgiving Day after a quickly-consumed dinner and then washing the mounds of dishes a family of eight can produce, we would play card games or go for walks around the town and nearby countryside.

As a child, Thanksgiving was a fairly simple holiday ... no thoughts of gifts or new clothes, just a great meal.

But as an adult, Thanksgiving has become so much more than just a big meal. On Thanksgiving morning, after a quick mental note that meal preparations are in place, I will focus my thoughts on what really matters to me. I will think about my family and how we have been blessed and challenged during the past year.

Sometimes I think some of our best Thanksgivings have been those we have celebrated in spite of the circumstances of the past year. There are tough years and difficult seasons of life. And on those Thanksgiving mornings, I’ve known that though we may have been shaken deeply as a family, we were still intact.

In some ways, this has been a year in which our family has been pushed and shoved around a bit. I have seen loved ones in very tough circumstances for which we had no easy solutions. The economy has been tough on most of us. There have been health concerns.

But even as I say that, I know many, many families are coming to this Thanksgiving with much greater challenges and sorrows than anything experienced by my family this past year. There are the Superstorm Sandy victims; the families of the Colorado movie theater shooting; there are families in our own neighborhoods who are reeling from some tough times this year.

So there’s no way I will come to the Thanksgiving table on Thursday thinking it’s been a perfect year or a year of smooth sailing for most any of us. But that’s OK.

Thanksgiving sometimes requires us to look beyond our circumstances and appreciate the simplicity of another breath, another sunrise, another day of hope and faith.

Though big meals remain a great part of Thanksgiving for me, I’ve come to realize Thanksgiving isn’t something I see with my eyes, like a table filled with food, but rather something to be experienced in the heart.

BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at dbarker@bcrnews.com.

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