Happy Thanksgiving!

Readers and listeners share their reasons for thanks and gratitude

NOTE: If you are a listener of That Podcast in Hutch, links to the show with this content are at the bottom of this newsletter.

Remember how excited we all were to ring in 2020? And how happy we were to let that unusual and bizarre year fade into history? The year 2021, we thought, would be different, would be better. And here we are in the waning days of this year, and it feels like we’re once again eager to move the calendar forward in the hopes that maybe 2022 will be different. 

Despite the challenges of the past two years, today many of us will gather with friends and family to celebrate gratitude and thankfulness. And I think it’s more important in the moments of struggle and darkness to reflect on the recent past with a heart of Thanksgiving. 

The contemporary American idea of Thanksgiving is largely built around the idea of gatherings and food. According to a survey by Lending Tree, a record 47 percent of people plan  to host guests this year, up from 41 percent in 2020, and up from 33 percent in 2019 - before words like Covid and pandemics entered our daily language. And the average host will spend upwards of $400 on their turkey and trimmings. Millennials are expected to spend the most on their parties - at $461 - while Baby Boomers will spend the least - at $232. 

Culturally, we tend to talk about Thanksgiving from the perspective of the early days of American History. Where after a brutal winter in 1620, the first American settlers died from exposure, scurry, and other disease. In spring, the remaining settlers formed an alliance with Native Americans, who taught them to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, and survive on the bounty of the wilderness. 

In November 1621, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast, and invited their Native American allies. The feast lasted three days. In the years after that first informal celebration, fasting and a Thanksgiving Feast remained part of life in the New England settlements. 

It wasn’t until 1863 that the holiday was formally adopted by President Abraham Lincoln - who agreed to a request from magazine editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale. For 36 years, she had promoted the idea of a national holiday of thanksgiving. She published editorials, and sent letters to governors, senators, presidents, and others - an effort that earned her the title “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

Lincoln, at the height of the Civil War, issued a proclamation requesting all Americans to ask God to “commend his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” Lincoln set the holiday on the last Thursday in November. But in 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt moved it up a week in an effort to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. The move met resistance - even being referred to as Franksgiving. In 1941, Roosevelt relented and signed a bill permanently establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Today, it often seems that Thanksgiving is a mere pause before Christmas. 

Black Friday sales dominate the marketing world - creating a furor around the latest gadget, toy, or must-have Christmas present. Most big box retail stores barely wait for Halloween to begin before the Christmas merchandise starts to flood the isles. 

I’ve been  thinking lately about the Thanksgiving proclamation from Abraham Lincoln, where he asks for God’s tender care to the afflicted. It’s a beautiful statement - one that is humble and honest, in which the president also asks God to heal the wounds of the country and restore America to its divine purposes of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union. 

These past two years have been difficult, to say the least. Our world has been upended. We have been asked to sacrifice, to momentarily suspend our sense of normal and to reorganize the daily lives that had come to be almost automatic for us. And we’ve been asked to do these things not for ourselves, but for others. For people we don’t know, and might never meet. We have been asked to work together as a national community. It’s not been easy, or simple. And it has included a great deal of difficulty, sadness, anger, and loss. 

It feels like after the past two years, we could again pray for healing, peace, harmony, and union. And pausing to be grateful, to consider our reason for Thanksgiving, seems like a good way to start. 

Last week, I asked people to share their reasons for Thanksgiving, and I’d like to read a few of those to you - and perhaps as I do, you’ll consider some of the people or events of the past two years that make your heart swell with gratitude and thanks. 

Greg Wood, who I used to work with at The Hutchinson News said “I’m Kind of grateful that I got laid off actually. LOL. Life is good.”

Howard Miller, with the Cheney Watershed -  I am thankful that despite the fact that we have faced uncertain times in the past 2 years I have been able to have a job that wasn’t jeopardized by a pandemic. The way we do our work has changed significantly but our message and mission have remained! I am also thankful for farmers that are willing to be flexible and understanding in how we interface with them. In reality the past 2 years have helped us find new ways to interact and have made us more effective because we have focused in the important things and become more intentional! Lastly I am thankful to be alive & well, that’s a privilege not afforded to everyone.

Gary Withrow - Jason, having friends like you has been one of the things I am thankful for. I am always thankful and happy about the family and warmth that is easily shared this season. I just had coffee with Larry and John.  That raised another moment of thanksgiving to have people in my life like those. I have read Peril. That helped me be thankful that Trump and his bag of low self-esteem is not present in the Whitehouse today.

Kathy Damron -  I’ve thought a great deal about your question. And while it feels odd (and even lonely) on some levels to be grateful during this trying time, there’s a great deal I AM grateful for.

     As a result of the pandemic, I’ve had the quiet and solitude to really think about priorities and how I choose to spend my time. It’s allowed me to better understand the people, places and endeavors that are meaningful and bring me joy. AND IT IS A LONG LIST!! That’s been a really great and unexpected gift, for which I am most grateful.

     The pandemic has also reminded me of the power of kindness, when it’s often been so lacking. It costs nothing and has a pretty significant shelf life. Take time to really listen, even when you’d rather not. Make it a point to say “thank you” to clerks and other strangers offering assistance. These simple gestures make the world a better place.

     Lastly, I’m  grateful for the clarity this situation has provided in many areas.  I don’t always like what has become clear, but it’s instructive as we move forward.

Ps. This is a charm I started wearing as a daily reminder of life’s gifts.

Ken Johnson, president of Hutchinson Regional Medical Center  - I am immensely thankful for the wonderful people that constitute the healthcare community.  While there are hundreds of people within the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System that have dedicated their lives to the care of others, there are hundreds more in Hutchinson that significantly participated in the fight against COVID.  It takes a village to adequately care for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our community.  I’m thankful for the many people, representing many organizations who demonstrated extreme personal sacrifice and bravely rose to the occasion to bring healing to an ill and often times scared community.  The Hutchinson/Reno County Medical Community came together in an amazing display of collaboration and teamwork. I am thankful that there is a COVID vaccine and our COVID numbers are reduced from a year ago.  While COVID is still negatively impacting our lives, there are avenues to help protect us from it’s terrible affects. I am very thankful for the support of the community in helping take care of the people that take care of them.  There have been innumerable gestures of cards, pictures drawn by school children, pizza, burgers, donuts, prayers, flowers, drive-in vigils, care baskets, etc. provided to our team members within the Healthcare System.  There is always much to be thankful for and I appreciate the opportunity to provide an expression of my thankfulness.

Sarah Barbeau - Meggy, Sarah’s young daughter, said 2020 and Covid made her grateful because we got to have so much family time. She loved the 3 of us being together all of the time. She is also grateful for her year of remote learning because she made friends from other schools that have become friends for life. 

Melinda Lavon - I got so many new friends and radically changed my city and county government. My kids have NEVER been this motivated to get up and go to school eagerly every day (after 18 months of homeschool w mama ) and it makes my mornings so lovely as a mom. I'm also grateful for elected leaders that stayed in office, but to do so navigated intense and at times dangerous situations. Especially our school boards. She also said that she’s grateful for the hard working, super smart  folks she’s organized with the last 2 years in Douglas County. And I know they’ve been doing some incredible work up there. 

Anita Mast Christian - I'm grateful for some (re)connections at church. Now that we know how to use Zoom, and have church in a hybrid form on Sunday mornings, I get to "see" a church member who moved to Virginia a couple of years ago. And I feel connected to her new (as of 2020) daughter-in-law, whom I've never met. I've gotten to know some church members who moved away before my family ever moved to Hutchinson a decade ago. And I've stayed in touch with someone who moved away last year better than I would have before the sudden increase in conferencing technology use.

Roberta Fall - I am SO thankful to be able to see family and friends in person, attend in-person worship and Bible study, and even the occasional arts event. But I am also thankful that I could participate in my Sunday school class via ZOOM for almost a full year and could likewise meet with colleagues on a regular basis in the same way. And, I am truly thankful for all of the medical scientists who developed vaccines and those everyday people who stepped up to be the proverbial guinea pigs in the testing phases.

Steve Schneider - I'm grateful for Operation Warp Speed!

Cammie Rumback - I'm super thankful I decided to go to therapy

Tom Giessel - First of all [and most importantly], I am most thankful my family has remained healthy and has not been shredded to pieces with political division.

Secondly, this re-affirmed my closest circle of friends, are indeed, true friends. [Might have a slightly smaller circle than I first thought].

The following list are things I have always been thankful for, but in these times, has provided the opportunity to appreciate them to a greater degree. 

  • My parents and community which provided me a well-rounded education.

  • Humility

  • An expanded concept of respect for my neighbors, community and environment

  • An open mind, along with the ability to sift through information and use critical thinking skills

  • An appreciation for the art of reading

  • A knowledge of the responsibilities of citizenship

  • An understanding and appreciation of the Commons

  • The value of cooperation

  • Quality journalism

  • Newspapers

Annie Kuether - wishing you happy Thanksgiving and grateful to have you as a friend!

I am thankful for everyone who took the time to share with me, and now with you, a few of their reasons for thankfulness and gratitude, in spite of the challenges of the past several years.

As I think about the past several years, I realize that I have much to celebrate. I hope, and would guess, that you do too. 

In moments of pain, or doubt, I have relied heavily on my family and friends. And they are always there, eagerly ready to offer support and kindness. I am more grateful for the love of my friends than I think they’ll ever really know. 

I am thankful that in times of turmoil and pain, already existing bonds have grown stronger, have helped forge new bonds - and that together we are resolved to face whatever lies ahead. 

My health has been good. And no one in my circle has become seriously ill, or passed away. And I have to recognize that there are many who can’t share in this gratitude with me today. 

I live in a community that is friendly, engaging, supportive, and that provides me with opportunities to grow, heal, and develop new relationships with new people. 

I have two beautiful granddaughters, both of whom are bright lights even on the darkest of days. 

My mind is filled with wonderful memories of the many people who have made my life rich. 

I have a home. Clothing. Food to eat. And clean water. I think it’s often easy to take for granted the most basic of life’s needs. But to have all of these in our lives is a wonder, and worthy of our gratitude. 

And I am thankful for every person who listens to this podcast - this indulgent little project of mine, where I get to turn my favorite hobby - learning about other people - into a product that I then get to share with others. Thank you for letting me into your life, and for giving me some of your time. 

As you settle into your Thanksgiving plans today, I hope you’ll find a multitude of reasons to be thankful - and that you’ll find the opportunity to express that gratitude to those you love. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

To listen to my Thanksgiving episode, subscribe to That Podcast in Hutch at Salt City Sound or on your favorite podcast streaming service.

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