Last week, I was rifling through one of my parents’ lost cupboards, when I found a hand turkey I made when I was younger.
And by younger, I mean seventeen.
The day before Thanksgiving break during my senior year of high school, Ms. Kurdziel stood before my BIT class (Zeeland Public School’s version of Calvin’s FIT class…and about as different as the acronyms, in case you were wondering) and said: “Construction paper is on the counter. Make turkeys.”
It had been awhile for all of us, but we needed no further explanation. We traced. We cut. We glued. We colored. It was, overall, a refreshing break from losing fifteen consecutive games of solitaire.
It was also a great flashback to second grade. Only this time, my motor skills were slightly improved, and instead of writing on the feathers that I was thankful for things like Buncha Crunch and my stuffed animal dog, Muttsy, I wrote that I was thankful for the wholesome things in life: family, friends, fun, and home (and you know, ninjas, because I was more mature, but not that mature).
But four out of five fingers made it seem as though I finally knew what we were supposed to be truly thankful for in this life.
Only, if I am going to be honest this Thanksgiving, then I am going to admit that I was much more thankful back in the day of Buncha Crunch than I was as a senior in high school. Than I am even now. My life, it seems, is a constant battle to be content no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing.
Most of the time, my depraved state of mind comes from comparing myself to others. I look at what others have, I look at what I do not, and I feel jealous or slighted by the hand of Providence. And yet, because I know deep inside my core that I have plenty of things in my life that should issue responses of gratitude, I start to feel guilty, and I start to reason with myself.
Instead of comparing myself to others who I believe have more to be thankful for than I do, I compare myself to those who I believe have less to be thankful for than I do.
Take, for instance, a pilgrim.
I think of the stories of the pilgrims (the historical versions…not Charlie Brown’s version), and I tell myself: “At least I am not a pilgrim.”
What logically follows is that I should be happy because at least I have food and at least I have warmth and at least I have whatever else the pilgrims did not have.
An at-least list that, graphically, looks a lot like the hand turkey I made during BIT class my senior year of high school.
A list that strikes me as a poor posture of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving should not come from comparing what we have ticked off on our fingers to what our neighbors do. Thanksgiving should not stem from guilt or logic. Thanksgiving should be an actual experience of gratitude.
And I have found over the past few months that these experiences often come in the specifics of the day. They come in moments of small achievements, unexpected phone calls, interactions with family or friends or co-workers. The writer of Lamentations refers to these experiences as “new mercies” or “new compassions.”
They are “new” because they are something different to be thankful for every day.
So, if I am going to be truly thankful his Thanksgiving, then I am going to have to construct my 22-year-old version of a second-grade hand turkey.
I am thankful…
Thumb: …that I made egg salad at work without gagging for the first time.
Index: …for middle school productions of Mulan.
Middle: …that we started baking cookies on Thursday again.
Ring: …for the friend who went to the middle school production of Mulan with me.
Pinky: …that this Thanksgiving will be the first Thanksgiving I will spend with my sister in five years and the first Thanksgiving I will spend with my brother-in-law ever.
Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.