A Kernel of Thanks
No matter where we have lived up and down the east coast of the United States, as far north as Vermont and as far south as Virginia, November embodies a season of change and reflection. Leaves make their transition from a rich earthy green to the fiery reds, burnt oranges, and vivid golds – their last flash of brilliance before descending to the ground for their final slumber. Cooler weather and winter winds begin to kiss our cheeks, causing us to wrap ourselves in the woolen warmth of blankets, and our fireside hearth. The days themselves seem to embrace this time of year, hearkening the sun to slumber earlier and earlier each night until the winter solstice. November serves as a reminder to slow down, burrow in for the colder winter days to come, and snuggle up to what’s really important.
However, in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives – our rush to always be looking ahead instead of enjoying the present, this wonderful holiday has been designated to barely a blip on our radar screen. We no longer take time to be present as we are all too busy juggling multiple schedules, fingers poised on a touchscreen, buds in our ears, tuning out the amazing world around us.
Nestled into the fourth Thursday of the month, Thanksgiving serves a wonderful reminder to embrace family, friends, food, tradition, and the innumerable blessings that fill all of our lives.
Years ago when I was a school Principal, a teacher introduced me to a fantastic tradition to help children understand Thanksgiving and celebrate it in a meaningful way. She had adapted a story she read in the local paper, known as The Five Kernels of Corn Thanksgiving Story. Multiple versions of the story can be found online, but the gist of the tale is that the Pilgrims spent many a day struggling through the harsh winter. Often, they had little to eat, sometimes as little as only a few kernels of corn. In the spring, they planted the remaining kernels, which grew into an abundant harvest that was able to sustain them the following winter and for years to come. For each Thanksgiving after that, they placed five kernels of corn at each place setting to serve as reminders: one for autumn’s beauty, one for their love of each other, one for God’s love and care, one for their friends – especially their Native friends, and one for their freedom.
We use the five kernels at our own Thanksgiving dinners. The corn kernels remind us of the meaning of the holiday, to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. Starting with the youngest, each of us around the table will identify five blessings in our own lives as we move our kernels in front of our place settings. These concrete examples, as well as hearing other’s share what we mean to each other, are a wonderful way to add to the replenishing of our souls during the holiday, leaving our hearts as full as our bellies!
This Thanksgiving season, try a few new traditions to help you and your family get back to the present. Place your phone in a communal basket in an out of way room, and return to an earlier time when people congregated together and enjoyed each other’s company. Take advantage of this Thanksgiving to sit a while, tell stories, toast your togetherness, jump in some leaves- make memories — NOT key strokes. Let us not forget to give thanks for our blessings. Allow five simple corn kernels to share your blessings as you embrace what is truly important – time with one another. What will you give thanks for this year?
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