There’s something special about Thanksgiving. I used to love Christmas – the lights, the hubbub and excitement leading up to December 25, the music, the scents, along with family and friends coming together. But there’s also the gifts element of the holiday which, in my experience, has truly take away from the true meaning of Christmas – celebrating the birth of Christ. There’s writing lists of things you would like to get, the stress for finding the perfect gift for everyone in your life, and those awkward times when you get a gift but don’t have one to reciprocate. For me, I think that the gift-giving component of our American celebration of Christmas points to our materialistic nature, a lacking in our heart to continually desire bigger and better things. Because of this, I have a newfound love for Thanksgiving – a day all about coming together to share a delicious meal with friends and family, a day to reflect on all that God has given you.
This morning I woke up and felt a stirring in my heart to go to Harvard Square. At first this made me really excited, thinking I was going to go and tell people about Jesus. But what I realized is that God wanted me to go to Harvard Square to teach me some things.
In Harvard Square this morning, there was a different feel. On a normal day, there is a busy hubbub of people rushing to work, to shop, or commute. But this morning was relatively quiet – most people being at home with family in nice warm houses, and a few walking to the T, carrying bottles of wine or small gifts on their way to family Thanksgiving meals. And yet the street-laden individuals of Harvard Square were still there, sitting on the pavement, cup of change rattling in their hands, a backpack with all their belongings not far away.
I spoke with a few, offering prayer and a listening ear. Each person expressed a longing to be with family, prayers for the health of loved ones, and a desire to be “anywhere but here.” One man remarked how cold it was getting at night sleeping on the pavement in his sleeping bag, which made me remember what a blessing it is to have a warm and comfortable bed only a short walk from the square. In my conversations, I expected to hear more pessimism, more hostility for the situation they were in, and yet everyone expressed thankfulness for being alive and for how God had brought them through. I realize that I have a lot to learn from these individuals, as their faith has been weathered – tested and tried even amidst the rough Boston winters. Truly, their ability to thank God in every situation is commendable and made me take a second look of appreciation at everything that I have. Why is it so easy to dwell on what we don’t have, instead of remembering what we do have?
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thesselonians 5:18)
And yet after a few hours, I hopped on the T with the rest of the middle-class Americans, to enjoy a delicious, filling meal with friends and family, leaving these folks still out on the street, rattling their cups of change, hoping for a better life. Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, but I’m wondering – what can we do to change the injustices of the world, such as the God-given right for all to eat a Thanksgiving meal?