Sandy stood at her kitchen sink, fingers wrapped tightly around a plump Yukon Gold potato; the first of many she needed to peel for her families Thanksgiving feast. The turkey and stuffing were roasting in the oven filling the air with a deep, savory aroma. The sweet potatoes and green beans were ready to pop into the oven when the time was right and the pumpkin pies were cooling on the counter.
Looking out the kitchen window Sandy watched as the cold November wind blew and tugged at the few remaining brown leaves clinging to the almost barren branches of the maple tree that appeared to fill her back yard. How many times had her kids climbed that tree, swung from its branches, and laid contentedly in its shade during the dog days of summer? But, those days filled with the bustle of family activity were gone, having been replaced with a certain quiet and eerie peacefulness that Sandy found both welcoming and objectionable.
The years she and Tim spent raising four kids had required a great deal of sacrifice. On occasions she’d felt like the sacrifice was too great, particularly when other families in the neighborhood appeared to not need to sacrifice like she and Tim did. But, in the end they would do it all over again because the end result was worth it; they’d raised four stable, wonderful adults who were grateful for their upbringing. Sandy thought about how their sacrifice gave birth to thankfulness in their kids, what a deep and pleasing thought that was.
While Sandy worked the TV softly filled the air with background noise. It was turned to her favorite news channel and every now and then she would hear a phrase that caught her attention. She picked up on a blip about another Army convoy being ambushed in Afghanistan causing the death of two American soldiers and wounding many others. Sandy’s heart was heavy for the great loss the soldier’s families were experiencing. They would never have the pleasure of that child sharing a Thanksgiving feast with them again. She thought about their sacrifice and how grateful she was for their service. How thankful she was for all the young men and women who had sacrificed their bodies and lives for her freedom.
The thought-thread stitching sacrifice to thankfulness kept unraveling in Sandy’s mind as she worked her way through the pile of Yukon Gold’s. It went from current day soldiers to the brave men and women who fought in World War I & II, The Civil War, and The Revolutionary war. How many soldiers had given their lives to give and protect American freedom. Their sacrifice allowed all American citizens to live as free and equal citizens regardless of color, religion, social standing, or political affiliation. Each warrior’s sacrifice throughout the years contributed to her and her families’ freedom. Yes, their selfless sacrifice should never be forgotten, “we must stay deeply thankful for what they gave,” she thought.
Sandy watched as one brown maple leaf yielded to the cold November breeze and drifted to the ground. She wondered how many times the first Pilgrims felt like that leaf. Starving, shriveled, cold, clinging to a dream that seemed more a fantasy than a reality; wondering why they left the comfort of Merry Ole’ England. They sacrificed everything for their dream of a county that respected religious freedom. If not for the help of the Native Americans they would have perished.
Sandy’s mind kept following the same thread connecting the act of sacrifice to the result of thankfulness. The natural progression of her thoughts linked the pursuit of religious freedom to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Golgotha. And this is where her thoughts stopped.
She knelt down next to her kitchen sink overcome with gratitude to Jesus for his sacrifice. His sacrifice changed hearts and minds of humans, giving them to courage and love to pursue equality, freedom, respect of others, and love of others. Jesus’ sacrifice was the ultimate example of how to love others, of how to give passionately to what you believe in.
It’d been years since Sandy had really pondered the significance of the pilgrims sacrifice to her current life. The pilgrims had become a cliché like so many other important events in our history. Today however, she understood the depth of their sacrifice in a deeper way because she’d linked it to the many sacrifices freely given by so many brave men a women throughout history. But, the ultimate connection was to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who freely forsake a heavenly body to be human and feel the pain of death on the cross for us.
The connection between sacrifice and thankfulness is undeniable. True sacrifice brings about true gratitude in all who open their heart enough to hear and see the truth. I hope that during this year’s Thanksgiving feast you will remember the sacrifices given by so many to make your life free, blessed, and full of opportunities. Remember your parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, soldiers, forefathers, and pilgrims to mention just a few and of course remember to give thanks to God for his love, mercy, and forgiveness.
By Debora Shelford Hobbs