I think of my children, as I often do, either because they are sitting in my lap and putting toys down my shirt or fighting or crying or being totally silent or using a toy saw to saw between my toes during the rosary. Today, though, during this Thanksgiving week, I’m thinking of them and how they receive gifts to see if I can learn anything about how I ought to change my prayers of thanksgiving to God.
Let’s start with the two-year-old: a while ago, when presented with a gift with her name on it, she’d become so excited she’d visibly tremble. It was very sweet to see how genuinely surprised she was to be confronted with an item that was just for her. Her eyes would open wide and her mouth, too, as she looked inside to see what it was. And no matter what is was, she loved it. Because it was hers. And she guarded it fiercely, shrieking, “Mine!” whenever someone so much as came near it. She didn’t have much in this world, but what she did have she guarded with her life.
Next, my gentle four-year-old son: last month for his birthday, he carefully unwrapped each present and closely examined the gift, all the while keeping his sisters and cousins within view to make sure that they were all a safe distance away. Very pleased with the offering, he sat guard by his presents, eager to whisk them away to his room after the party. There he stayed, sometimes for hours, preferring to enjoy his gifts in the solace and safety of his room rather than have to share with his sisters. His toys came with lots of little pieces and he’s been remarkably good at keeping track of them all.
Finally, the five-year-old: with great vigor, she opens gifts for herself and wants to use them immediately, quickly mastering them and inviting others to do the same. Her mind fills with various uses for each gift and suddenly her month is filled with projects and deadlines. Her gifts yield great fruit that is generously spread around.
And now me: how do I receive gifts? How do I thank God for them—and do I? Bestowed, presented, gifted with the precious, do I guard it with my life, like my darling fierce toddler? Am I willing to choose solitude over the pleasure of the company of others, like my son, in order to enjoy what I’ve been given and make sure I’m not losing track of anything? And what have I done with all that I’ve received? Have I used those gifts to bear fruit for Him to spread around to others, like my energetic, industrious five-year-old?
I think of what Thanksgiving Day will hold for us, as we’re spending it at my parents’ house this year: the wine-and-butter soaked turkey baking all day, the heat from the kitchen warming the rest of the house, seeing my brothers and their families, liquored sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, pumpkin pie. The stories, laughs, the Macy’s Day parade and the joyful din of the cousins tearing around. In the midst of it, I hope to remember to thank God for all that He’s done for me, most especially for the gift of His infinite love: to guard it with my life, to prefer it to all else, and to use it to bear fruit for others. I hope to remember to thank Him like a little child. Because I am—His. As often as I wish, I can climb into His lap and stick toys down His shirt and saw between His toes. And I give thanks for that, for Him, our loving and tender Father.