A few days ago, I was eating chicken soup with my girlfriend on Thanksgiving Day. No turkey. No apple pie. And no Macy’s Day Parade. Certainly not the norm for Thanksgiving.
Last year, I celebrated Thanksgiving back home with all the family, except for Mark and Rache who were celebrating theirs in Germany. It’s always a good day to eat food, but it’s also an important time to be thankful. As usual, we each thanked God for something before consuming our food.
But this year there wasn’t any food. And no family. But I could still give thanks. And there is much to be thankful for.
For most people, myself included, it’s much too easy to criticize others and fixate on the annoyances of life. Negativity comes with ease. But having a thankful spirit doesn’t seem natural for most people. And it’s not always easy. But it’s an important practice in life. So here’s my “thankful” list.
I am thankful for the Cross. Because Jesus died and rose again, I can live eternally with Him. Because of his sacrifice, I can have new life. His one selfless act redeemed mankind. And I am grateful that he did it for me.
I am thankful for my family. Oddly enough, the more I’m away from them, the more I appreciate having them. None of us are perfect, and we certainly didn’t always get along as children. But I think our relationships with each other are healthy and open, not dysfunctional like other families. I think I can say I view all my siblings as friends now, not just someone related to me by birth.
I am thankful for my health. I find you don’t appreciate your health until you don’t have it. Colds and viruses often expose the tenuous nature of a healthy body. But I think I forget how many times I don’t encounter one because my body already fought them off. And I’m not suffering some chronic disease or debilitating injury, which for some people, is a daily struggle.
I am thankful for my job. Teaching university students is not always easy, but largely, I enjoy most of my classes. There are always some frustrating classes or downright maddening students, but at least that’s not reflective of all my classes. For my present social status, it pays well and meets my needs. And it’s much better than having a job I dread or not having a job at all.
I am thankful for my friends. It is never easy forming new friendships in a foreign country. But I’m thankful for those who are willing to get to know me (not for the fainthearted) and help me adjust to life back in China. There are many sorrows and joys in this life. And it is better to share them with others than to go through them alone.
I am thankful for my apartment. First of all, it’s free. It is not ostentatious, but it has all my needs. A place to eat, rest, shower, and relax. It is bigger than some I’ve had and smaller than others. And it gives me exercise every day (it’s on the sixth floor). Perhaps it will help me learn Chinese too with all those Chinese TV stations I have. I need to decipher the remote buttons first.
Finally I am thankful for Thanksgiving. It is not just a time to stuff your face and spend time with family while watching football. It is also a time to reflect on the past year and remember how much God has blessed your life. He has given me much to be thankful for. And that’s better than any roast turkey or apple pie.