The Grateful Heart

Upon waking this morning, the first thought wasn’t of my family gathering later nor was it the anticipation that I have to attend morning football practice with my Trinity family.  It was of a Thanksgiving eleven years ago that changed my perspective on the holiday.  On that day, my family was going to have our holiday dinner at a quaint restaurant outside of the city limits.  With my parents, we made the twenty-five minute journey.

We were seated in a dining room with an assemblance of other families.  I wonder if they were all happy to be there, or if they were counting down the minutes until they can go home and exhale simply because they got through it.   I can’t identify the exact moment, but my mother said something to me that pushed my buttons.  The buttons that she installed, mind you.   I tried to diffuse it and respond appropriately, but the words had already penetrated the walls and there was no going back.  We got through dinner.   On the way home, my mother and I argued for the entire twenty-five minute drive.  The boys were oblivious with their headsets on and watching videos.  Brian and my Dad were probably praying we would make every traffic light.   But the pivotal moment was when I went to help my father out of the car – at this time he had lost a leg to an infection – and I apologized to him for being a party to ruining the holiday.  He responded, “I’m sorry too.  I’m sorry for the boys, for Brian, for me, and for you both.”

Two weeks later, my father passed away unexpectedly. I was a party to ruining his last holiday on earth.   That Thanksgiving has haunted me.  It reminds me that we don’t know what life is going to deliver.  It reminds me that every argument, disagreement, and harsh word, don’t need my participation.  It might sound odd, but I am grateful for that experience.  It provided me with a shift in how I participate in the holidays.   I am mindful.  I am present.   I realize that other people’s words and actions only have power if I engage.

So, enjoy your family and the others gathering with you today.   Even those who make you want to run screaming.  Even those who are completely inappropriate.  Even those who test every tool you have.   God put them in your life for a reason, so find a way to be thankful for their presence.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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