Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Two Faces of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, a wonderful American tradition and national holiday since 1863 has two faces. Contrary to what you might think those faces are not stuffed and more stuffed, turkey and pumpkin pie or even Pilgrims and Amercian Indians. No the faces of Thanksgiving are beautiful to see, perfect in their goodness; they are gratitude and generosity.
So fun to have faculty, alumni, family & friends at the 2017 Turkey Trot. Much warmer than Boston ;-)
Many of the Gospel readings of late have focused on these faces, revealing their importance and yet how challenging they might be. Generosity isn't always easy. Sometimes, we give with the hope (or expectation) of getting something in return. True generosity is able to give without counting the cost. And gratitude—thank God my mom emphasized the importance of writing that seemingly innocuous thank you notes when I was young; making time to give, write and say thanks is a spiritual discipline. I have often wondered if Jesus, in His humanity, walked away disappointed that only one out of ten lepers who were cured returned to say thanks. And yet, even one face of gratitude is worth seeing. Thanksgiving is a time to look for both.

The faces of Thanksgiving show up in unexpected people and places, which makes them worthy of seeking. For example, for the past 20 years, nearly 200 students, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends have come to the circle at Lake Merced to walk, run, jog or stroll our Turkey Trot. All of the proceeds go to St. Anthony's Dining Room, a place that loves all and serves all (ala Hard Rock Cafe) in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. We ask for a $10 donation from every participant, And, as the organizer, I see the faces of every one of them. I can't tell you how many are excited to give much more than the suggested donation. Others thanked us for not only organizing the race but for supporting St. Anthony's. We are grateful and want our community to know that. 

We say "thank you" for attending—the fact that anyone even shows up is a grace. We give t-shirts to the first 100 registrants, something I always have fun in creating. During the years when the Giants won a World Series (2010, 2012, 2014...2018??!!), the Turkey Trot t-shirt was either orange with black lettering or black with orange lettering. Hard not to be grateful for three championships in five years. This year's shirt, however, was navy and orange, the colors of no Bay Area sports teams. So what gives, right? This year's shirt was my way of thanking the Houston Astros for defeating our rivals—the Los Angeles Dodgers. Happy Thanksgiving LA! Giving thanks can be fun.
So grateful for my ND Family, gathered for a pre-game meal
Indeed, there is so much to be grateful for. Every other year, I get to see the faces of my other family, one that I love very much. Later today, the Fighting Irish will take on the Stanford Cardinal down on the Farm. This pigskin classic brings alumni, family, and friends from far and wide. We come together for tailgating, football and Fireball and much more. The ND family is inclusive of faces old and young. They have been my classmates, teammates, mentors, prayer partners and friends. Always thankful for this family...and of course, a good victory. Go Irish!

At the Friday Morning Liturgy before the Thanksgiving holiday, in the homily, Father Steigeler said that gratitude is a reactionary virtue. We express gratitude because someone has been generous. He challenged us to practice both. This Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to begin.

I would never ask a high school student to be two-faced, but considering what these two look like....maybe I would.

Read about the SI Turkey Trot in 2010!

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