"Big Four" Highlights


Giving Thanks by Doing More

Taking stock of Thanksgiving traditions

By Jason Godin

Thanksgiving is one of the most tradition-filled, iconic holidays of the year. A man can take satisfaction not only in having the day off and being with his family, but also in his special roles and responsibilities that may include carving the turkey and popping a cork or two.

It is also a good day to remember that, if we aren’t careful, traditions can become self-serving ends in themselves and icons can become corrupted by their fame or importance. All things in this world will come to an end, after all, just as all persons are prone to sin.

Consequently, I see Thanksgiving as a time to realize that our faith demands that we not simply go through the motions of traditions surrounding our American holiday, but use this annual observance to give thanks by doing more than in past years.

The Food for Body and Soul

Thanksgiving for me first centers on the traditional meal. Every year my wife, children, some friends too far from their own family, and I all gather around the table for a huge Thanksgiving afternoon feast. I carve the turkey my wife spent all morning perfecting while everyone else sets the table with side dishes, many she made as well. Then we eat it all.

My wife works very hard to make Thanksgiving successful. She gets up early and, since 2007, cooks with our two young children nagging her. What simple act could I do this year to give thanks by doing more? Our parish celebrates a Thanksgiving Mass in the morning. I plan to take the kids with me. It is not just a way to get them out of my wife’s hair, but for them to witness their father giving thanks to God for what matters most: my health, a loving family, a remunerative job, and living in a country where I have the freedom to worship without fear.

The Game

Stuffed from the afternoon meal, a journey is then made every year to the living room to enjoy another Thanksgiving tradition — watching a football game (or two). This Thanksgiving will be an extra special day for me. My favorite professional team plays that night.

What simple act could I do this year to give thanks by doing more? I plan to switch the television off if the football game proves a blowout, and spend the time with family and friends. If the game is a close one, and turning it off may result in someone turning me into a tackling dummy, I plan to mute the television and still spend the time with family and friends. If questioned about why I’m turning my attention away from Thanksgiving football, I’ll explain that sports channels can give me the game highlights but not remake memories shared with my family and friends.

Edmund Burke once wrote that “when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Today many people equate those words to mean simply “evil thrives when good men do nothing.”

Our world needs good men to do more. This Thanksgiving, in your own traditional ways, give thanks by doing more than you have in the past.

Jason Godin is managing editor of Fathers for Good