On Thanks-Giving

By Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Hidden Springs Lane. It’s been a long political season. Some Americans are excited about the prospect of an Obama second term. Others are despondent. Many on both sides are exhausted. As the nation decompresses from what seemed a nearly interminable campaign, it is appropriate that we turn to things more important. Thanksgiving affords us the opportunity to do just that.

It is so easy to get caught up in the business of busy lives and to become blind and deaf to the very things that make life sweet. It is absurd to think that busyness is somehow a measure of a good or successful life. Yet, when I ask people how they’re doing, the most frequent answer is simply “busy.” It seems that all too often we let busyness distract us from the real business of life.

What is this business of life? Well, for one it is not abstractions. We are embodied creatures and, though our technology increasingly tempts us to imagine that place and particulars don’t matter, they do. Perhaps more than ever we need to cultivate the habit of paying attention to things right before our eyes.

This morning just after dawn I was sitting in our living room holding my daughter. She was born on April 24. A year ago, we had no idea we would have the privilege of knowing her. It was on December 30 that we received a phone call asking if we would be willing to adopt a baby who would be born in the spring. A crisis pregnancy. A mother unable to raise a child. We said yes.

Tana wakes early and always with a smile. She’s the best natured baby I have ever known. I sit with her in the quiet of the still sleeping house. She makes little baby sounds as if she’s trying to talk. I pretend I understand. She pauses, gathers herself, and sneezes. One of those body-convulsing events that is unseemly in an adult but delightful in a baby. She sneezes, looks at me, and laughs a deep, belly-laugh of surprise and delight. The moment is gone almost as soon as it happens. I have only the memory. And I have her in my arms. A tiny, beautiful person who laughs when she sneezes. She is a completely gratuitous gift to our family and by extension, to the world. I am thankful.

As we sit, I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye. A deer in the yard. I lay Tana down. The rifle is propped against the wall for just this kind of thing. I step to the window. It’s a large doe with last year’s fawn, not yet fully grown. I leave the gun in its place, slowly open the door and step onto the porch. They skip delicately through the grass, their tails flashing and pull up to look at me, from what they think is a safe distance. Very still. Go ahead, deer. Let’s enjoy the morning together. There will be other days.

The little things we take for granted aren’t little at all. A baby’s smile. A doe and her fawn. Friends who come over just to sit, drink a beer, and talk. The smell of dusty pine needles. A purple sunset in deep fall. Sitting in a deer stand with a ten-year-old boy who starts to shiver and scoots over close and who fits under your arm just right.  I am thankful.

For a family. This mini-tribe who share the same house, who laugh and fight and cry and love and forgive. Together. What kind of precious gifts do we casually look past every day as we go about our busy lives? These moments appear as gifts unbidden and are gone before we grasp their full significance or even notice they were given. What does it mean to share a life with other immortal souls? To eat dinner with such as these? Though I am undeserving, I am grateful.

How easy it is to forget to say thank you to God from whom all blessings flow. With a world full of suffering and loss, every good reveals itself as a gift: For the beauty of a song. All creatures of our God and king, lift up your voice and with us sing. For bread and wine. Take and eat. For prayer. Give us this day our daily bread. For silence. I am grateful.

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