How does the creature say thanks? | Eastern North Carolina Now

Lib Campbell: Above
    Thanksgiving changes from year to year, the dates change, and the attendees at the Thanksgiving feast are different. Chairs are empty that once weren't. How is gratitude mounted in the face of grief and loss? How is thanksgiving offered when war is raging around the world and terror is rising on our own home soil? Gratitude is humility that recognizes blessing amidst pain, light beyond darkness, and hope that a new dawn will break upon us. On our knees we see how small we really are.

    Thanksgiving is a posture, an orientation between the Creator and the creatures we are. Thanksgiving is a response for all that has been given to us. The privilege, the inheritance, the opportunity that we seem to forget in the hubris that we are self-made. There have been a lot of hands helping us up, whether we name them or not.

    The humble, thankful heart opens itself to the plight of other folk's life. In thanksgiving there is resolve to be servants, activists marching to a drumbeat of freedom, givers who want to be part of a great solution.

    Thanksgiving traditions fill our thoughts with family gathered, good food, football, the Macy's parade and the start of the Holiday Season. I cook the things my mother-in-law cooked. Her sweet potato souffle. Collards. I also cook my mother's favorite scalloped oysters, although I am the only one who eats it. Nobody makes dressing like Grandmother Stroud did. I always thought it was the Avon hand lotion she used before she mixed the dressing with her hands.


    Stories come out at Thanksgiving, stories that maybe would have been better off left untold. It usually starts out, "Richard, do you remember when..." Teenage antics are better received when heard by 50 years old parents with their twenty-five-year-old children relishing in the stories of things they got away with. I even made a sweatshirt about the Comfort Inn story. In the Broughton Class of 1987, that story is legend.

    Grandaddy Stroud died on Thanksgiving Day of 1954. I was in the fourth grade. He had been fishing in the Contentnea Creek that bordered his farm in Greene County. He was pulling his little Jon boat onto the sand and had a heart attack. He was found by Mr. Williams, caretaker of the farm, just before noon. Loss on a holiday is even more memorable because there is so much attached to the day even before death crashes in.

    Much recent writing has been done about the myths of Thanksgiving in America. The story is told from the perspective of the pilgrims. The story raises up heroes and perpetuates a legend of détente thanksgiving feast, which completely dismisses the displacement stories of native peoples. Trails of tears soak American soil, yet we are a people who still tilt a table against people of color, against anyone who isn't us.

    How does the creature say thanks? This question is a lyric in the hymn, God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale, written by Jaroslav J. Vadja in 1983. Rev. Vadja was a Lutheran pastor, son of Czechoslovakian immigrants. Looking at the titles of Pastor Vadja's hymns, a lot of them are call and response.

    Full of questions, Rev. Vadja, first sets the questioner as "creature." I think a lot us struggle to see ourselves as creatures among the sparrows and whales all created by the same God. Too many of us have forgotten that when we were cast in the story as stewards who had dominion, we were given great responsibility of creation as a trust. Too many of us have sought domination, to a point of grinding up people just to put ourselves at the front of every line.

    Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to lift ourselves out of our own pride and self-interest and give thanks for all that has been given us. We may never have had guts to name the Creator and creature relationship before. We like to be the hero in our own story.


    It is a challenge that faces us. Finding perspective as to our status among everything that is created. Thanksgiving is a first step of giving credit where credit is due. Awe. Praise. Thanks. If you utter only one word this week, let it be thanks.

    Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader and hosts the website: She welcomes comments at
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