Paul Berens

The Giving Thanks Part

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (—Philippians 4:6)

Thanksgiving gatherings at my parents’ home were and still are large gatherings (never fewer than a couple dozen) with all the traditional victuals (that could compete with the best Thanksgiving tables across this land), but are most memorable for the postprandial period when people set down their dessert forks, the music is turned off, and we go around the table and offer up a word of thanks. And by word I mean many words, because

  1. this is the Irish side of the family, and so if you provide a platform, out will come the amusing stories and wistful memories and political musings and so on; and
  2. every person two years old and up is invited to “gave thanks” and so this sharing of what you are thankful for takes the better part of an hour.

(Lisa survived this tradition early in our courtship, and immediately afterward I got a mild reproof for not forewarning her that there’d be public speaking involved in coming to the Berens Family Thanksgiving.)

She’s since come to appreciate and love it, and we’ve carried on the tradition now in our home, because we think it important to share something, no matter how simple, because when you utter these thanks aloud before a group they seem to ascend from nice sentiments to actual prayers.

And sure, you always hear gratitude for family, friends, health, and jobby job—please pass the gravy, but if the environment is relatively comfortable, some people will share something from below the surface. In fact it happened this year that someone in our party discussed his thankfulness for certain recent struggles in his life, which reminded me of C. S. Lewis’ aphorism: “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good; if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility, and hope.” I aspire to that level of sanctification where all is gift in one way or another, but Flannery O’Connor’s take is more accessible and punk-rock: “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

As for my part, I ain’t got much reason to complain (squint at)—quite the opposite, in fact, particularly when I think about the innocent families in parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip. And so for today I’ll employ John Prine’s simple words1 as my thanksgiving:

Today I walked down the street I use to wander
Yeah, shook my head and made myself a bet
There was all these things that I don’t think I remember
Hey, how lucky can one man get.
Hey, how lucky can one man get.
Hey, how lucky can
One…
Man…
Get.

Happy Thanksgiving,

— ᴘ. ᴍ. ʙ.

  1. Thanks for the introduction to this one, Uncle John. 

First published: 2023-11-23

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