A Google search for “family at Thanksgiving” yields disturbing results.
An article authored by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker and posted on Psych Central’s web site offers “10 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with the Dysfunctional Family.”
Another article, written by TODAY contributor Gail Saltz and posted on the morning show’s site, is headlined “Thanksgiving stress: How to avoid holiday family conflict.”
And still another article, keyboarded by Esquire.com writer-at-large Dave Holmes and posted on the magazine’s site, begs the question: “Is Thanksgiving Better With Family or Friends?”
Hartwell-Walker advises lining up “some co-conspirators” before the family gathers for Thanksgiving. “Chances are you’re not the only one irked by your family’s dysfunctional routines,” she assures, adding that co-conspirators should “(a)gree to tag-team each other with the folks you all find particularly difficult.”
Saltz suggests preparing “some cool one-liners” in advance of Thanksgiving. “You know your sister is coming,” the TODAY contributor reminds, “and she’s going to say, ‘Gee you look like you gained a little weight this year.’” To which Saltz’s recommended response is: “You know what? I don’t really want to talk about that right now, but let’s set the table.”
Then there’s Holmes, who laments that, “With family” – as opposed to friends – “only God can control the guest list.” That means, he continues, that “(a)ll manner of socially-anxious uncles and humor-deficient cousins must be in the same place, simply by virtue of being related to one another. It’s a recipe for disaster in even the best of years.”
There are, regrettably, many who will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this evening who share the sentiments of Hartwell-Walker, Saltz and Holmes. They think Thanksgiving a secular holiday when family must be tolerated (no matter how disagreeable). But, in fact, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to acknowledge the beneficence of the Almighty, who created family.
Indeed, upon creating Adam and Eve, the first husband and wife, the Bible tells us: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” If God thought the family superfluous, He could have simply populated the earth with fully-grown human beings with no need for procreation.
And that the family is sacrosanct in the eyes of God is borne out by the story of Cain and Abel, the first offspring of Adam and Eve. After Cain killed his younger brother – how’s that for a dysfunctional family? – God asked Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother.” To which Cain responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God’s answer was “Yes.” We are our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keep, our mother’s keeper, our father’s keeper, our Family’s keeper.
That’s why God commands “Honor your father and mother.”
That’s why the Bible declares that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
And that’s why Jesus Christ said that “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
That’s what Thanksgiving is about: Paying homage to our Creator. Honoring our parents. Showing loving-kindness to our relatives. And reconciling with family members with whom we have differences.