Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
It’s always been my favorite holiday, no question.
As a college student in the late 70’s,
As the calendar flipped to November,
I remember the anticipation of Thanksgiving.
Maybe it was the academic pressure that came with the end of semester,
or perhaps it was the thought of getting more than 6 hours sleep for once.
or possibly a longing to see family that I had not seen for three months,
Who am I kidding……….
I missed mom’s home cooking.
There was nothing like arriving home on the day before Thanksgiving…….
the sound of leaves yet to be raked underfoot,
the crispness of the air as fall was hastily surrendering to winter,
the embarrassing nakedness of the surrounding fields following harvest.
But it was the first step inside the farmhouse door that I will never forget.
It was the smell.
If love ever had an aroma, it was this……….
Pumpkin pies cooling on the counter,
dough for homemade rolls slowly rising over the pan,
the pungent smell of onions waiting to season the stuffing,
all nurtured by the warmth of the wood stove.
It was the best of a Norman Rockwell moment.
On the day before Thanksgiving 1978,
I drove into the driveway, greeted the family dog,
kicked my way through the leaves to the doorway of love,
and opened it.
Pies? Missing in action.
Homemade rolls rising? Only thing rising was my anxiety.
Stuffing? Nope. Strongest scent in the room was a plug-in deodorizer.
Okay, the wood stove was hot.
That was it.
That’s when my dad told me,
“I decided to give your mother a break this year.
We’re going out to eat for Thanksgiving.”
I made a peanut butter cracker in an effort to console myself,
as I tried to embrace the heresy of Thanksgiving in a restaurant.
“Oh no, we’re not going to a restaurant. There’s a fire hall
that’s having Thanksgiving dinner.”
The stake pushed deeper into my heart.
This was 38 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
I remember being ushered like cattle to a long row of tables
where I was seated across the table from a total stranger.
I remember this big burly guy telling me about the deer he had
slain and gutted during archery season, as I tried to eat my turkey.
I remember cranberry sauce that had come from a……………. can.
I remember plastic cutlery instead of my parent’s holiday tableware.
I remember plastic flower table pieces.
I remember a slice of pumpkin pie, with no whipped cream,
that would have bowed before my mom’s pie in pie heaven.
I remember instinctively moving towards the kitchen that evening to make
my annual 9pm turkey sandwich, only to remember there was no turkey in the refrigerator.
But now that mom and dad are only sweet memories within my spirit,
what I most remember is my lack of gratitude as a college senior.
In a season of Thanksgiving, I could only think on what I thought I deserved.
In a season of gratitude, I could only grasp my greed..
In a season of counting blessings, I was only able to count what was missing.
In the years that passed, there have been 37, soon 38 more Thanksgivings,
all of them wonderful celebrations of family, faith, and food,
and yet the Thanksgiving that taught me the most about giving thanks
was the Thanksgiving of 1978.
We should appreciate what we have before
it becomes what we had.
But even more, our appreciation for what we have should
inspire us to see that others have those same blessings.
And so, 38 years later, I will be making my mom’s pumpkin pies to
give to our local church as they offer Thanksgiving Dinner*
to anyone who wishes to enjoy a good meal in the company of friends.
I doubt that there will be anyone walking into that dinner as ungrateful as I was in 1978.
But if there is, may that last piece of pumpkin pie, change their heart.
It eventually changed mine.