I did eat something later on in the evening on Thanksgiving Day but it wasn’t the traditional fare. This whole fasting thing wasn’t my original plan at all. In fact, I didn’t know that when I woke up that morning, that I wouldn’t be eating turkey and all the fixings that I’m so used to having on the fourth Thursday in November. It just happened and now I’m trying to put into words what I learned that day.
The day started out on the wrong foot. I mean, it wasn’t that I overslept or had a bad dream. No, what happened was I got into a little fight with one of my roommates. I lost a part to something in her kitchen and not only did I forget that I lost it, but that I had failed to let her know about it. It’s not like me to do either of those things but I’ve been under more stress lately than usual so I guess that’s what can happen. Anyway, I spent a little extra time looking for it which ate up the time I needed to be spending getting downtown to volunteer for part of the day. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find that thing but more for the fact that I added stress to someone else on one of the biggest family gatherings of the year. So…after I had looked, I had to tell her that I couldn’t find it…and then I got ready and left the house. I was running late and there was nothing more that I could do or say.
On my way there, I try calling my mom to tell her about my plans and to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I didn’t get her on the first try so I called again a few minutes later. I’ve been doing my best to find new ways to enjoy my time here in Jacksonville but it has proven to be a challenge. If I went into detail about that, though, I’d have to write another post entirely. Needless to say the call lasted longer than we both wanted it to last. I vented a little about what happened at home but mostly focused on how I managed to misplace something of my own that is a serious deal-and the underlying thing that I was really angry about.
I still got to volunteer but it wasn’t for as long as I wanted to. That was alright in the end because at least I got to do something for people who have it a lot worse than I do. And I got to smile and just all around be cheery. That’s really one of the main things a person needs around this time of year. Especially if they are away from their family or have no loved ones still alive. Because I had arrived a bit later than planned, the serving at the rescue mission was almost over and almost everyone else had already eaten. It was time to finish eating and start cleaning up. The day wasn’t about me, so I didn’t mention to anyone that I hadn’t eaten anything yet. I didn’t even think at that point that I wouldn’t be eating anything that afternoon. I helped clean up and the coordinators of the Thanksgiving program wished us well and we went our separate ways.
My plans for the afternoon and evening were going to consist of reading and writing in a cafe before going to a store to shop. Don’t get me wrong, I’m against shopping on Thanksgiving Day (and seriously smack the CEOs of any major corporations that opened their doors on Thursday) but this one particular shoe chain that was giving out a gift card to the first one hundred people in line. I figured, as one of my favorite pairs of shoes now has a hole in it, that it was worth a shot. Well, thanks to getting incorrect directions from the maps app on my phone and spending a little but too much time in Starbucks, I wasn’t near the shoe store to get in line with enough time to spare before the clock struck 6pm. So…that didn’t go as planned.
Keep in mind that during this entire day I was using public transportation to get around. The buses were set to a holiday schedule and some of them only ran every two hours they were that slow. And since almost every major store and restaurant was closed that day, there was little traffic on the major roads so every bus was on time. When my plan to go to that shoe store fell through, I decided not to risk going there at all. It wasn’t worth getting myself stranded later on. I hadn’t ever ridden a bus on a major holiday before (minus 4th of July) so that was an experience in itself. To say you meet interesting people is an understatement. Everyone I interacted with, from the drivers to the passengers themselves, smiled just a little but more and went the extra mile to help another person out if they dropped something or had a question about the route. I made sure to not only thank every driver who dropped me off but to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Someone even helped me get something out of my hair that I didn’t even know was in there (a leaf or something) which was very kind of them.
Now if you spent the day helping your mom or grandmother cook and prepare the meal or ate three servings of turkey and traditional foods or watched football all day or didn’t do any of those things but were with family, I’m not condoning you for doing that at all. I would have done most of those things too if I were home with my own family. The purpose of this post is to simply present a different perspective on Thanksgiving. One that didn’t include a feast, at least not in the traditional sense.
During the whole day on Thursday, I felt fine. I was focused on helping others in any way I could and I felt calm and focused on the inside too. Even when I was serving and cleaning up food, I didn’t feel any hunger pains gnawing at my stomach. When I didn’t get to eat in the afternoon, I was almost thinking that God was disciplining me, almost punishing me in a way. Well, it turns out He was actually humbling me instead.
In the last six years, I’ve spent two Thanksgivings with my immediate family. That wasn’t what I needed to learn humility about exactly but it plays a part. My absence during a lot of major holidays has become the norm in my house. I can’t come home for all of them due to finances and my family understands that. Sometimes I’m able to experience the Thanksgiving holiday with other families, as I did last year. I’m blessed to have had these families welcome me into their homes on such a special holiday. While I am still appreciative of them, I think this year, deep down, I really wanted to be home. Well, what I truly wanted to be home for was my mom’s birthday the following day (the 29th). I haven’t been home on her birthday in 7 years. I came close to it in 2011. Maybe I just don’t understand why they’re always there with me on my birthday and I’m never there on theirs. You can’t always be home for everything like you were as a kid I guess.
The main lesson I learned through fasting was how much we take food for granted. Especially when we can have it in such large quantities on one or two days of the year and no one bats an eye. But what about those who don’t have that luxury? I was compelled, due to my accidental fast, to think of the people who don’t have enough to eat. The people who always wonder where their next meal will come from or how many meals they will eat today compared to yesterday. My unplanned selfless act of giving up the Thanksgiving meal meant that someone else could have a hot meal, as I can have them almost whenever my stomach growls. I gave of myself that day: of my time, my personality, my encouraging words and even my appetite.
And you know that? I think I felt even more full than I ever would have felt had my belly been full of food that day.
Whether or not I spend Thanksgiving next year with my family is not my main concern. Whether or not I maintain thankful and grateful heart throughout life, however, is.