Thanksgiving is a fairly pure holiday, know what I mean? There is no pretense, no pressure about presents, no weird feelings about giving and receiving equally or about getting presents that you really have no use for. There is no use for regifting or guilty feelings for not getting someone a present even though they got one for you.
There is the gorge. But there is often family, a few much needed days off, and a little time to reflect on just how fortunate we are. And we are. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I went to Rwanda a couple summers ago. I was there for the 13th Liberation Day celebration. The day that Rwandans celebrate the end of the madness that overwhelmed the country for a little over three months.
During that time over one million, one hundred seventeen thousand ethnic Tutsis were mercilessly killed. Neighbors turned on neighbors, friends on friends. I spent precious time with Immaculee Ilibagiza (the author of Left to Tell)
and her friend Richard, both genocide survivors. Nothing in my life has ever touched me the way my time in Rwanda did. Probably, nothing ever will.
The wonderful part of that story is that Rwanda (Youtube, Wycliff Jean:"Million Voices")is very far along on their way to forgiveness. That may sound absurd. As I read over my own words, it seems unlikely. Impossible. I’m here to tell you that it is true. If I was ever unsure about God and God’s mercy, spending time with the beautiful people of Rwanda dispelled any doubts I may have harbored.
The vast majority of Rwandans have no electricity and no running water. They are fortunate indeed to have a bicycle to help carry their heavy loads of water, firewood, fruits and vegetables. We drove through the country one late evening and went for hours without seeing a single light other than a fire. Another remarkable thing about Rwandans is that they count their blessings. I’ll get back to my thoughts about Rwanda from time to time – I can’t help it. But honestly, the lessons I learned there will last my lifetime. One of the biggest lessons is about being grateful for my many blessings.
Last Thursday The State newspaper printed prayers of thanksgiving from many cultures. Each is brilliant in its own way. Here are a few of my favorites.
A circle of friends is a blessed thing.
Sweet is the breaking of bread with friends.
For the honor of their presence at our board
We are deeply grateful Lord.
Thanks be to Thee for friendship shared,
Thanks be to Thee for food prepared.
Blessed Thou the cup; blessed Thou the bread
Thy blessing rest upon each head.
-Walter Rauschenbusch, 1861-1918
For good food and those who prepare it,
For good friends with whom to share it,
We thank you, Lord. Amen.
Oh Lord of the universe
Please accept all this food
It was given by you
Let it be of service to all
Only you can bless it.
-Bhagavad Gita, fifth century B.C.
May this food restore our strength,
Giving new energy to tired limbs,
And new thoughts to weary minds.
May this drink restore our souls,
Giving new vision to dry spirits,
And new warmth to cold hearts.
And once nourished and refreshed,
May we give thanks to him who
Gives us all and makes us blest.
-Adapted from an Irish blessing.
Just one more for now. This one is my favorite.
When you arise in the morning,
Give thanks for the morning light,
For your life and strength.
Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies within yourself.
-Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee Indians