November is upon us! It’s a month for many things—for time changes (this Sunday!), for Native American Heritage Month and Diabetes Awareness, for NaNoWriMo, and even foregoing shaving. It’s also one month of twelve with a particular focus on grateful living.
For some in my extended family, Thanksgiving is a fraught holiday. We celebrate a myth— of European settlers benevolently breaking bread with the Wampanoag people, having received their generous and life-saving hospitality. The real tale is more complicated. In 2022, we can perhaps better appreciate why some Native people still hold a Day of Mourning on the fourth Thursday in November.
And yet, even with this awareness, I cling to the emphasis on gratitude that this holiday brings. I hold dear the image of beloveds gathered around a table, each having brought or contributed to some aspect of the bounty before us. I delight in new faces and stories woven into old conversations; at Thanksgiving tables, like the sacred table we gather around each month, there is always room for one more. As we share, each in turn, what it is that sparks our gratitude this year, the idealized first Thanksgiving is somehow realized among us.
We know gratitude is an integral part of our faith as Christians—as a natural response to God’s grace and lovingkindness poured over us. We can see God’s abundant gifts whenever we pause and look around expecting to see them. For many, this takes shape as an end-of-day gratitude list. Even on discouraging days, we can think of 5-10 things worthy of our gratitude; this is a grace. And this practice, over time, shapes us as people with eyes to see God’s abundance around us. When I skip my own gratitude list, I risk missing some of the gifts altogether.
In the month ahead, we’ll bring some of that practice to Facebook and Instagram, as we have in past years, with a monthlong gratitude initiative. This year’s series is called “Alphabet of Gratitude,” and was crafted by designer Jo Nygard Owens. For each of 26 days, we’ll focus on a different word related to gratitude, a scripture passage, and a question for reflection over the course of the day. One of the aims, Owens writes, “is to expand our vocabulary of gratitude”—a worthy endeavor for any month!
Mid-month, we’ll also reflect with gratitude on the work God has done and is doing here at Westminster Presbyterian Church through our Commitment Sunday on November 13. As we commit to another year of ministry, we also give thanks for all that God has done to lead us, together, to this very moment.