What Do I Get Out of This?

Another Thanksgiving Day approached with the haste of a mighty winged steed in strong mountain winds; it immediately began demanding such incredulous amounts of preparation, strength, energy, patience and food that some just gave up before trying.  Others were seen rushing against time at their local grocery stores, metal carts crashing into one another evoking venom and rage from their drivers.  Others found ways to calmly spend hours walking through congested aisles and standing in checkout lines.  Their calm was like a Zen of perfect unity with the shopping experience, and it really ticked off everyone else slamming their carts into one another to see that sort of thing.    Parking was ridiculous outside the market.  Escaping it was even worse!  Yells and screams from all sides drowned the sound of bells ringing from the Salvation Army collection buckets.  People mindlessly and carelessly pushed their ways through the parking lot traffic the same way they had shopped; with brute force.  Narrow of mind and broad of path, they hurried, and cursed, and very thankfully got drunk afterwards to forget the whole ordeal and talk in slurred speech about all the other idiots that had been out there impeding their progress.
Pressure mounted over the following days as the expectations of the magnificent meal rose higher and higher.  How many people would come?  How many were invited?  Where will everyone sit?  Is the table just right?  Is the house clean enough?  Did I buy enough pie shells?  How many pounds of turkey per person was it again?  Why did you invite her?  Questions assailed the minds of the thankful, transforming hurried preparation into anxious perspiration.
Soon there would be relatives that one only saw once or twice a year shoving themselves through the door expecting to be fed.  The aroma of the roasting turkey would saturate the air as family and friends would fill the once peaceful home with their various brands of chaos.  Everyone would soon say, “Mmmmm, that smells so delicious.  I love turkey.”  No one would ask the question, “Why do we so seldom cook turkey then if everyone loves it so much?”  The cooking and the baking loomed like ominous black clouds of destruction over the pitiable heads of those so foolish enough to undertake such a disorganized endeavor.  The spirit of joy and of giving thanks was something reserved for when it was all over.
Even those who would have few to their homes for the traditional American feast felt little spirit for the occasion.  To them perhaps the ritual act of the dinner had faded or replaced its meaning.  Everything would be organized, practiced and rehearsed, set and anticipated, and the results would be quite predictable over an appreciably silent dinner table.  Theirs would be the same old routine.
The day arrived.  Countless conversations were had.  Massive amounts of food were consumed.  Many turkeys lost their lives to the celebration.  Pies were crammed into already bursting bellies.  Naps were taken.  Gas was passed.  And far too much football was watched by sleepy men while the women begrudgingly cleaned up the mess of all.  Children ran around.  Teenagers played lots of Guitar Hero and Halo to avoid the sleepy men, intrusive women and hopeless parents.  In some homes, “thanks” was given.  In others, “thanks” was forgotten.  In some homes there was noise and chaos while in others, voices were overcome by the thunderous din of silence.  What had been expected actually happened.
But in one small apartment in a slight neighborhood, a very different scene played itself out.  As snow accumulated slowly outside on the night before Thanksgiving, a small, weak, tired, almost frail woman stood alone at her stove, smiling and humming as she prepared what she could of a feast for her guests.  For most of the night she cleaned and cooked, trying to get some of the dishes done in advance.  Evening waned into very late night before she retired to her bed for a short sleep.
The next morning the whole world was blanketed in fresh glittering snow.  The day was cloudy and cold but filled with excitement and scintillating beauty.  The hostess got up from bed very sore, very tired, her chest aching and her mind racing.  Her spirit was indestructible, however, and guided her boldly into the biggest day she would have had in years.  She prepared the turkey and started it in a large roaster.  She set up her table with the extra leaf to hopefully accommodate everyone.  She then finished decorating her small home.  Very soon eight people would be coming to eat with her and her heart was overflowing with anticipation and glee.
She spent the whole day cooking and baking, completing parts of the meal carefully yet steadily.  Near noon, her guests started to filter in.  A few of them offered her help with finishing the meal, but she refused.  She laughed at her stubborn need to do it all on her own this time.  She had something to prove to herself.
Something unexpected happened however, as the people she had invited came to her place.  They had each thought to bring guests of their own.  Others called while there to invite still further to the great banquet.  People made their way into her shrinking apartment and found comfortable places to sit and talk while the good hostess worked away in the kitchen.  Her hands trembled from exertion over time.  Her legs got very tired and painful.  She smiled anyway and laughed along with some of the jokes and stories carrying in from the other rooms.  Her visitors, all seventeen of them, were having a wonderful time.
Her heart filled with renewed joy as she finished each of the courses of the meal.  She carefully sliced and dressed-out the turkey and filled her platter with steaming, juicy poultry.  She carried every server, every bowl and tray of food to the table; smiled an exhausted but happy smile.  The dinner table, now set up like a buffet to meet the hunger needs of the growing crowd, was finally complete.  She called everyone’s attention from every room.  All of the people gathered around her and lowered their heads when she asked them to.  She closed her eyes, smiled, and with a soft, faded voice gave thanks to God for all He had made possible.  She invited Him into her home as their most honored guest.  Everyone agreed with a delicate “Amen,” and began overloading their plates.  The roar of conversation and laughter, the clanking of silverware, the sounds of eating, and the moment was perfected.
The good hostess stepped away from the table, determined to serve herself last, and absorbed all that was going on around her.  Tears came to her eyes.  She wiped them and smiled as big as she could.  So many had come.  So much love had found its way to her.  She was so honored to bless all of them with a warm home, a wonderful abundance of food, and countless opportunities to share her heart of compassion with those that were hurting or in need there.
She sat, smiled some more, cried some more, watched everyone enjoying and being themselves, and thanked God again to herself.  Thirteen months prior she had been in the hospital screaming in agony and fearing death at any moment.  Diseases had run their course against her and had nearly destroyed her body.  Her veins were full of thrombosis.  Her heart was failing.  She barely had the strength to pull herself out of her hospital bed to use the restroom.  Her entire body was racked with severe pain in spite of the medications she was given.  For nine days the nurses and doctors fought to stabilize her condition.  Incredible effort and expense restored her ultimately to a point of reduced self-reliance.
Her life very drastically changed.  After being released from the hospital with a walker, 5 medications, a new diet and overwhelming pain throughout her whole body that even the narcotic pain killers couldn’t touch, her existence became a daily struggle for survival.  There were so many months of pain to come; so many moments of just wanting to give up.  There were tears, obstacles and defeat in everything.
Somehow, there was also hope.  There was joy.  With the help of friends she was even able to put up her Christmas tree that year.  The care and attention of a dozen doctors and nurses regained her some of the quality of her life little bit by little bit.  The burden of her suffering was shared by incredible friends all along the journey to a partial recovery that would enable her to return to independence.
Then one day she discovered SL and has been writing articles for The Konstrukt ever since, trying to give advice to people like she knows what she is talking about.  Okay, fine, like it’s any secret at all, the hostess is me.  I want my story to be an encouragement to everyone that reads it.
And my challenge to you in this very special, often times difficult season is to stop in your Holiday blitz, slow down for a moment amidst the demands upon you for perfect gifts, candy, meals and time.  Consider what you might be taking for granted.  For me, this Thanksgiving was an incredible blessing because I was alive to see a moment that should not have been.  By all technical reasoning I should have died in that hospital.  I had overcome.  For the chance to serve again, to be a good hostess one more time, how could I not be thankful?
We all, me especially, take things for granted.  We believe friends will always be friends.  We believe family will always be around.  We believe there will always be air to breathe.  We believe our children will never die.  We believe we will never run out of time.  We believe we will always have an opportunity to make things right before it’s too late.  We assume there will never come a situation where we can’t just stand up and walk across the room to get a glass of water.
What do you take for granted?  Your wife?  Your children?  Your job?  Your family?  Your health?  Food, air, water, strength, electricity, the internet?
Ask yourself right now, “What do I get out of this?”
How you answer that question reveals a lot.  How you ask yourself that question is even more important.  The question can be asked selfishly to measure your personal gain from what you do.  It can also be asked objectively and help you ascertain the reason for your effort.  Perhaps your reasons need to change, or perhaps you need to be less selfish.  Either way, if you realistically understand that there is no guarantee of another Thanksgiving, Christmas or tomorrow, you give less levity to petty conflict and far more to peace and reconciliation.
Have the most wonderful and blessed holiday season this year, a very Merry Christmas and a bright New Year filled with victories, joy, and a charitable heart within you to dedicate more of your time to others.

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