There are moments in life that feel enchanted. We’ve all experienced them—moments when the mundane is suddenly interrupted by a sense of purpose and contentment. Everyday activities suddenly seem rich and full of life instead of dull and meaningless. Everything is right with the world. And it’s in these moments that we feel like we’re getting a taste of how things ought to be.
Thanksgiving is a time when we pursue this type of enchanted moment. It’s a time to gather with family and friends over a shared meal to feed our bodies and souls as we foster one of the core virtues of an enriched life—gratitude.
It’s a time for mysterious casseroles, cylindrically-shaped cranberry sauce, and salads made from miniature marshmallows, jello, and whipped cream. It’s a time for great-grandfathers to serve their great-grandchildren sweet potatoes with shaking, calloused hands. And it’s a time when the rebellious teenage cousin generously refills everyone’s cups with tea while their phone is in an entirely different room.
Only on Thanksgiving does Grandma’s dingy old couch become a priceless antique heirloom on which peace accords are reached between sisters who haven’t spoken in half a decade. And the weathered, faux-leather recliner morphs into a royal throne of clouds as the shy, married-in-uncle experiences his deepest slumber in years. When the last Thursday in November every year is enchanted with such special meaning and purpose, it turns into Thanksgiving.
Of course, this is the Thanksgiving that we all aspire to. Reality, however, often finds a way to plague the day with relational strife, consumerism, and busyness, making it feel far less enchanted and a far stretch from how things ought to be. And then there’s this year. As if the usual anti-enchanters weren’t enough, this year's pandemic has conspired with reality to make it nearly impossible to reach for this magical moment. It seems hopeless even to try.
But, as uniquely ominous as it may appear, this year’s Thanksgiving is a simple reminder of a greater reality that we feel all the time:
Something’s not right.
Things ought to be a certain way—true, good, and beautiful—and yet reality doesn’t always match up. We feel this disconnect in our families, our work, our relationships, our bodies; it even extends beyond ourselves into the realms of politics, business, and entertainment.
Everything seems broken.
But then there are moments of healing—a politician pauses during a town hall meeting to give a tear-filled hug to a hurting stranger, the owner of the only house left standing on a block decimated by a tornado opens his doors, kitchen, and heart to his neighbors who can’t pay him back, or when a movie combines art, rhetoric, and narrative to take you to another world and then back to reality with a renewed sense of purpose.
Occasionally, we experience these moments with business as well, which is too often marred by the brokenness of corruption, greed, and exploitation. We might hear of a CEO who takes a pay cut to secure positions for her employees. As a customer, we might experience the warmth of an employee who has truly been taught to care. Or, through the use of an innovative product, we see a business meet an important human need. Yes, business too can be imbued with true, good, and beautiful aspirations, enabling us to experience that transcendent feeling of enchantment.
We face tremendous headwinds coming into Thanksgiving this year, and we’re struck by the reality once again that things are broken, that they’re not as they should be.
But here’s an encouraging thought: the most enchanted moments often come during the most trying of circumstances. The circumstances surrounding this year’s Thanksgiving, albeit unique, may actually provide kindling for enchantment.
So, consider writing a heartfelt letter to an older relative who couldn’t gather with the family. Plan a time to have an undistracted and intentional phone call with a friend who you know is spending this Thanksgiving alone. Or, find a creative way to ensure that your most vulnerable neighbors are cared for.
Thanksgiving will undoubtedly look different this year. But it doesn't need to be any less enchanting. This Thanksgiving, instead of focusing on what is broken, spend some time being thankful for what is true, good, and beautiful.
Look for ways to bring healing.
You may be surprised by what you find.
*Cover photo by Karolina Badzmierowska on Unsplash
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