In 1836, a New Bedford Mercury (newspaper) columnist wrote: “And he is no true Yankee, who is not, in heart at least, at home on Thanksgiving day.” While we might not call ourselves “Yankees,” I think we can all relate to the sentiments that filled this man’s heart.
Three years ago, my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving in Beirut, Lebanon. We didn’t have the traditional meal, since we were in a small apartment that only had a stove-top burner – not the optimal means for cooking a Thanksgiving spread. Instead, we had a variety of traditional Arab dishes that we could make or procure more easily. We did, however, manage to find small, individual pecan pies – individually wrapped in plastic like Little Debbies, but pecan pies all the same – and made some sweets for desert: English almond toffee and pecan snowball cookies. Last year, we celebrated a small Thanksgiving dinner in Amman, Jordan, this time complete with turkey and stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans, mashed potatoes, a real, homemade pecan pie with whip cream, and apple cider. This year, we will be having a Thanksgiving dinner together with a few other Americans in the local community. Today is really the prelude to our celebration, which we have postponed until Sunday due to work schedules. Various friends are chipping in, each one bringing a dish, so no one person has the full cooking load. We might have to forgo the yam casserole again because sweet potatoes seem to be hard to find around here, but the rest of the table will be complete.
Regardless of where we’ve been, and the extent to which we’ve been able to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner or not, I been satisfied and fulfilled each year because we really have been at home, both in our hearts and in reality. We’ve had several homes over the last few years, but no matter where we’ve been physically, I really have been at home. I’m at home because I’ve been with my family: first just with my parents, then with my husband, and now with our darling little boy as well. I’m at home because I’m deeply at peace with the life God has given me, and because I am living the life I really want, as a wife and mother. I’m at home because I’ve found where I really belong, both through my own new and growing family, and in the work we’ve both been doing and supporting each other with, in the field of education/media and for the Church. I’m at home because here, halfway around the globe from my country of origin, we have been warmly welcomed into a wonderful community, and are surrounded by so many people that share our values and many of the things we love. For these, and countless other reasons, I really have been at home for the last several years, despite changing surroundings, and I really am at home now, here in Kurdistan.
I am also at home “in heart” in another way: every Thanksgiving, I fondly remember my own country of America and, through celebrating Thanksgiving wherever I am around the globe, I unite myself to all of my fellow countrymen that are also pausing on this day to thank our common Creator for all the good things he has given us. Not all countries have a designated day for giving thanks and, while it can be argued that gratitude cannot be imposed by a national holiday but must rather come within, I believe that having Thanksgiving as a national holiday has helped many of us foster that internal gratitude. It is a day we look forward to, and, in looking forward to it, we begin thinking in advance of the many things we have to be thankful for. It is a day full of traditions that thus gives us even more to be grateful for as we go along. It is a day celebrated with friends and family, bringing together many of the people we are most grateful for, so we can thank God together for the gift of each other. And, for those of us living outside the U.S., it is a day that unites us with our fellow countrymen from afar and gives us the opportunity to talk about and share the beauty of this day with those around us.
Wishing all Americans, at home and abroad, a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving…
“Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose love endures forever.”