What’s a favorite Thanksgiving experience of yours that still makes you giggle?
Here’s mine: Several years ago, when I was living and pastoring in San Luis Obispo, fellow single clergy pal Susan Brecht (of the Atascadero UCC) and I decided to forego friends' and congregants’ kind offers to join them and their families at their Thanksgiving table and instead spend the day together, enjoying what we called a “That Girl Thanksgiving.” We were going to have “single-girl” adventures that would make Ann Marie proud!
The plan was hike by the ocean in the afternoon, then enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at one of SLO’s fine restaurants that, then go to a late movie. A day full of fun “That Girl” activities for sure!
Of course, being it was Thanksgiving in Southern California, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and we had a great hike. Susan then came back to my parsonage where we both showered and got ready to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner somewhere in town.
We were just about ready to head out the door when we turned to one another and said, “Wait a minute, where shall we go?” We hadn’t given a lot of thought about where we would have our meal. There are a gajillion great restaurants in San Luis Obispo. We figured we’d park the car and just pick one.
We’d forgotten, however, this was Thanksgiving! Most restaurants would probably be closed, except a couple known for their lavish Thanksgiving feasts and for sure you’d have needed to make reservations weeks ago, which we hadn’t.
Sure enough, we started to call around to some of our fave places, and they were closed. Sure enough, we called the couple of places we figured would be open and they were completely booked.
Our stomachs now were not only hungry, but feeling punched. Would there be anywhere we could go? Grocery stores were by now even closed, so buying something to make was out of the question.
Honestly, I was starting to think I’d need to go to the gas station and buy some Slim Jim’s and Cheese Sticks for our main course and then we could have popcorn and Kit-Kat’s at the movie.
Before this Plan D, I decided to call back one of those restaurants that was booked and ask if they knew of any restaurants that were open that might have room for us. It felt a little uncomfortable asking someone for suggestions from among their competition, but I was desperate, and I hoped they were in a holiday mood and would understand.
Sure enough, there was a restaurant in town, a really good restaurant, and it was open and would most likely have tables available.
It was the Taj Palace, Cuisine of India.
Of course! Of course! I was giddy with the news!
WE’D HAVE THANKSGIVING WITH THE INDIANS!!!
I can’t tell you how over-the-top joyful Susan and I were to go to Taj Palace for our Thanksgiving meal. Of course the curry and tandoori and naan and IPA were fantastic. But the best was enjoying it with the Indian community of the Central Coast. We were the only “white people” in the place, and it all made us so happy and grateful and, well, just laugh at the irony here that was delicious in every way.
We were even laughing about it after the movie we’d chosen to see, “Into the Wild” was over. While a good film, it’s really a downer. Not the kind of movie most folks would choose to see on Thanksgiving.
But then again, we were having a “That Girl” Thanksgiving, which indeed was full of more wacky, delightful surprises than we’d ever anticipated. Ann Marie I’m sure would have winked at us (like she does at the bridal store mannequin that suddenly comes to life) not just once, but twice I am sure!
I’m guessing your Thanksgiving memory that makes you giggle, while perhaps not about gorgeous spring-like weather and vinadaloo, is still in many ways like ours. It most likely involves unexpected difficulties and surprising solutions with surprising people and an awareness of how great the world can truly be…just because. You didn’t do much to deserve the gift, the totally unexpected gift, the more-than perfect gift. So much grace to be thankful for!
I suggest, perhaps more than any other holiday, it’s good to remember the Thanksgiving stories from our lives that make us giggle. Because they are the best way to honor the spirit of the story of first Thanksgiving, when Pilgrims came to this country with big plans of how they were going to create their own lives their way. The way that truly followed God’s biblically-based Plan and would make the Almighty most proud.
They got to the New World and found they were completely unprepared. They didn’t know how to fish, didn’t know the right crops to plant, didn’t know how to treat the New World diseases that were killing off their community, to say nothing of what starvation was doing to decimate their ranks.
And then they met Squanto. A native who had been years before captured and sold into slavery yet after his freedom whatever grudge he might have had against White People did not preclude his wanting to help them. When in slavery he’d been converted to Christianity. Surely that had something (probably for all sorts of reasons) to do with it.
Squanto, with the help of nearby friendly tribes that Squanto was connected to, taught the Pilgrims what they needed to know and sure enough, they started to thrive. That first Thanksgiving they spent…with Indians….was the perfect, surprising, delicious, ironic delight.
Actually it was even more than that, for at that table were communities who were supposed to hate one another, want to destroy one another, certainly not understand one another. And yet, the world can sometimes be truly great….just because. The misdirected Pilgrims certainly didn’t deserve the gifts that brought them to thrive and brought them to the Thanksgiving table, but that’s what truly made this a truly sacred time. Indeed, God’s biblically-based plan.
Because the Bible teaches us God’s way is always the delightful surprise coming from the unexpected messenger. The least-expected messenger. Often the messenger you’d otherwise hate, fear, seek to avoid or destroy. The truly "Other." God's way is always the one that's most creative, gracious, ironic and, well, hilarious!
This Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other, tensions around the table are expected because of the highly charged political atmosphere that we’ve all been living in this past year.
This is the best year to remember the gracious surprises of the first Thanksgiving, your favorite still giggle-inducing past Thanksgivings, and make it a point to look, really look, prayerfully look, for those opportunities - most likely totally unexpected and rather kooky - to laugh and discover common ground and the perfect solution to something that brings a sense of loopy joy and a sense that despite everything, the Universe remains full of wonder, grace, peace and plenty. And we’re invited to the table always, the weirder the table the better.
A Happy "That Girl" Squanto-Filled Thanksgiving to you, to us all. Wink wink!