The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving

Friday, November 20, 2015


Thanksgiving as​ defined by​ the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:​ 1) the act of giving thanks 2) a prayer expressing gratitude 3) a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.

​Thanksgiving as defined by American consumerism: the holiday lost somewhere in between the one with all of the candy and the one with all of the toys. ​As my mailbox fills with catalogs and store aisles fill with decorations, I can't help but wonder why it seems so easy to focus on the things we don't yet have but want, than what we already have and should be thankful for?

​What are you thankful for? It's a simple question and yet the answer is not always so easy. I know that I have more than I need, and yet it can become surprisingly easy for me to list the ways in which my life is lacking. If only I had more time, more money, a bigger home, yada yada yada...

And then the heartbreaking attacks in Paris happen, providing some much needed perspective. I hug my husband and daughter that much closer to me. I thank God for the roof over my head and the food on our table. I have infinitely more than I need and deserve.

I also know that I have more than the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing death and destruction in their country at the hands of ISIS and Assad. The terror that Paris experienced last week is what they are facing every single day. And yet, after it was reported that one of the terrorists may have entered France via the wave of refugees from Syria, we react in fear. We decide it's best to protect ourselves over those who need our help. (And what's infuriating is that we're not even protecting ourselves very well with these actions - just hurting innocent people. In case you're wondering, it is already a very difficult process to become a refugee (click here for more on that) so no, a potential terrorist would most likely not use that means as a way to gain entry into our country, they would try this instead.)

The attacks in Paris and subsequent actions of several of our nation's governors and now the House of Representatives to shut our doors to Syrian refugees has brought many things into focus for me. I am angry that we live in a world where terrorists shower hate on those who think differently than them. I am furious that innocent people are being killed in France, Lebanon, Nigeria and many more places at the hands of extremists. But I am heartbroken that we are letting them win. Our actions are allowing their message of hate, their disregard for life and freedom, overpower any message of hope or love we believe we have.
Instead of fearing that we are letting in terrorists, why aren't we afraid of turning away angels? "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hebrews 13:2
As we prepare to sit around our tables this Thanksgiving, it would be easy to think that we live in a terrible world. It would be easy to feel scared, shut our doors and pretend that it's too dangerous to help. It would be easy to let darkness reign. But we have a choice. We don't have to let hate and fear win. We can choose to show love and help those in need. We can choose to do the right thing. If we don't, how will the evil in this world know what we stand for? How will they know that they will not win? That hate is not stronger than love.

I know that I have much to be thankful for, which is why it should be expected that much be given. This Thanksgiving, let's not close our doors, but open our hearts instead. If you are looking for ways to help Syrian refugees, I encourage you to follow these links for ways to give thanks this Thanksgiving and donate to families in need:

I also urge you to reach out to your Governor and Representatives to let them know you support helping refugees, not shutting the door in their face. You can find contact info here. And sign a petition urging President Obama to take bold leadership for Syrian refugees here.

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