Pastor’s Corner (11/19/2020)
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
I had only been in the Czech Republic for a couple of months when Thanksgiving rolled around. It was a normal workday in the Central Church Office in Prague, but I knew that my family and friends were gathering in various configurations to mark this holiday unique to the United States. I saw an ad in the local English language paper for a traditional Thanksgiving buffet. Although I had grown accustomed to spending this holiday on my own through years of working away from family and serving as a hospital chaplain who pulled duty on this day, I felt drawn to the advertised buffet. I thought, if nothing else, it would be a good meal and a taste from home. It was a bit pricey since it was at one of the local Hilton Hotels, but I forked out the money and made my reservation. When I arrived there were not many people there and I was shown to a large round banquet table. I have to confess that the buffet was not all I had hoped for, although they did try. But, the most difficult part came when 2 couples were seated at my table and they all spoke to one another in Czech. I had hoped to meet some other English speakers and have a chance to speak in my native language. My table companions were able to speak English and responded curtly to my greeting, but they were not at all interested in conversing with me. I became painfully aware of how lonely and homesick I really was. I went back to my small Prague apartment totally dejected and feeling more alone and lonely than ever.
As we face the Thanksgiving Holiday this year, many of us may feel like a foreigner in a foreign land. We all have expectations and memories for this annual holiday. On one hand, we know it will not be like any other Thanksgiving. On the other hand, we still carry our memories and expectations. The realization that Thanksgiving will not be what we expect or hope for may leave us feeling sad, lonely, and homesick for what has been. I think part of the challenge for me during that first Thanksgiving in Prague was how unaware I was. I was not in touch with my loneliness and my sense of being out of place. I was not aware of my hopes and expectations. I carried a whole set of expectations and hopes with me, but, I had not named them. In later years I decided to treat myself to a nice meal on Thanksgiving Day but I did not carry the expectation that other needs would be met. I reminded myself that the day was meant for giving thanks and I tried to do that in my own simple way.
As we face Thanksgiving and the following holiday season we can begin by allowing ourselves to be aware of our memories and expectations. Our willingness to admit and name our disappointment and sadness around our current situation will be another helpful step. Perhaps we can take some time to imagine new and meaningful ways to mark this season. Perhaps one of the invitations in this strange time is to find new ways to express gratitude. Instead of being together in large groups, how might we cherish all those who enrich our lives? It will not be easy for many of us, but, it can still be a season of gratitude and joy. As Satir points out, we may learn a lot about ourselves in the ways we cope with what is instead of focusing on what is supposed to be. At least we are not alone, all of us are struggling to find ways to give thanks and celebrate even, and especially, in this time of COVID.
In this season of gratitude I give thanks for each and every one of you here at FCC. May joy and gratitude guide us all in this season of giving thanks.
With a grateful heart,