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“Whatever you did to the least of these, you also did to me?”
Thanksgiving is a time set aside to give thanks. It’s acknowledging the things we have that we often forget as nothing. Our health is one of those. Yet we take it for granted. Our friends are another. sometimes we are so callous we think nothing of un-friending someone without so much as a phone call. Our family is one we are stuck with, but they are the ones who in spite of what we’ve done—are there—through thick and thin. Most of all, I think Thanksgiving is truly as it was intended to be, a time to give thanks.
What are you thankful for? How do you let people know you are thankful? Do we truly share our gratitude in ways that make us realize we are in a country founded on ‘in God we trust?’
There are three things I want to share that are connected to Thanksgiving, and hopefully it will give you an opportunity to reflect on your own. One deals with separation of church and state; another involved a dear friend of mine and his bout with depression; and the last one deals with sharing an ethic of care.
As most of you know, Texas A & M is becoming a reality in San Antonio. It will offer a lot of things for the city, to continue the idea of education being an economic engine for the Southside that Dr. Ana Guzman has so diligently sought for Palo Alto College. Education is the foundation of so much of our country’s success--an indigenous part of that. There were crosses designed to complement the tower on the new campus. As reported in the San Antonio Express news, a spokeswoman for Texas A & M University says the crosses were placed there to evoke the Spanish missions. It was reviewed by the university. They had no problem with it. Then a faculty member complained…a fellow educator. Guess what? The crosses on the “Tower of Hope” were removed. I guess one person can rip away the hope of others who worked so hard for this. According to Ralph Lampman with VTLM, which built the tower, “The whole idea was to create an icon that reflected the area’s history. And it’s beautiful,” he is quoted in Sunday’s paper. It is truly sad this happened. I’m appalled, and I wonder if the faculty member is truly thankful she lives in a country where one person’s concern can deface another’s hope. I’m thankful to live in a country like that, but saddened people can’t tolerate differences. I feel cheated. Indeed, something was done to the least of us.
Over the years I’ve met lots of people. Some you keep on your Christmas card list, you send them mass emails, or even invite them to be your friend on Facebook. Among these is my good friend Bill, in South Carolina. Bill and I have been friends since we rewrote a briefing for the Commanding General at Fort Benjamin Harrison, 26 years ago. We’ve weathered a lot: kids; married for more than 25 years. He married his high school sweetheart; I married a woman who’s become my best friend. She and I don’t always agree. Bill and I do most of the time. Bill fell off the map some months ago. I couldn’t get in touch with him. When I couldn’t reach him, I prayed to God I would hear from him...and true to form, a ‘tower of hope,’ God came through. I’d get a cryptic message from Bill that he was alive, and a ‘thanks for the concern.’ One time he told me he was in a very dark place. I responded via Facebook, and asked that he ‘help me find that place, and maybe I could help him out.’ Last week we finally connected. His first words were thanks for being his friend. Thanks for not giving up on him. Thanks for helping him know that others cared. He was in the throes of depression. Daniel Levenson in Seasons of a Man’s Life talks about the cavern some men grow through, and some don’t get out. Levinson saw men experiencing 1-3 periods of intense depression and frequently asked questions on ‘love, life, occupation, or existence.’ These periods are 17 – 22; 23 – 33; 36 – 38; 40 – 45 60 – 65 80 -85. These periods are marked by: DE-ILLUSIONMENT – become more realistic about one’s limitations and strengths, and DISILLUSIONMENT – embittered about life. I’d been there before. Bill helped me. It was my time to help him. I was thankful I could. He was one of the least of these.
As I approach my 70s, the decade of the 60s has brought interesting revelations. It’s the first time I’ve had a president who is younger than I am. I have sons that remind me of the things I have done, and thankful no one saw me as I fret if I have done enough to prepare them for the forks in the road they will encounter. One such road occurs this past weekend. Our younger son had gone out. We failed to communicate on what the plan was, and he was under the impression I knew he was not coming home after the event his school was sponsoring. Imagine my dilemma when I woke up at 5, went to his room and he was not there. I practically energized the city of San Antonio. He was not the least of these to me. When he came home, he immediately began to insist if I knew him, I should have known he was okay. I told him, “That’s why I was worried.” I knew him. Not being home as I’d expected and not knowing where he was frightened me. I told him how much I loved him and cared. That’s how Jesus must feel when we don’t let him know where we are; how much we care; or that we know He loves us.
My son and I became closer after that. “I know you!” I told him. “That’s why I was worried!”
We cannot help but be thankful for all that we have. It’s the beginning of hope. When wet let others set our tables, we are given a meal we may not be able to stomach. When we understand we are here not only to share others’ burdens, but allow them to share ours we appreciate the thankfulness of thanksgiving. We understand, who is among the least of these that God loves.