As we enter Thanksgiving week, I’m remembering my son Jeremy’s first official Thanksgiving. Since my mother set the feast-bar pretty high in my family, prepping for a holiday meal has always been a lot like preparing for the Pope, or Brad Pitt, or Oprah, or whoever-else you might have picked when you played the game “If you could invite one famous person to dinner who would it be?” So the year my kiddo was to enjoy his first Thanksgiving, to somewhat simulate my mom’s Martha-Stewart-like event, I believed it was important to follow the 3-P’s: Preparation + Pressure = Perfect
The “year of the infant” turned out to bring its own unique prepping challenges. Tackling shopping between naps, while avoiding melt-downs, was harder than it sounds. Having to decide between making cornbread for the stuffing or taking a shower was a choice no one should have to make.
Finally, when the big day arrived, the house was a flurry of activity. The baby didn’t nap and was cranky. The guests called and were going to be 40 minutes late (which totally messed-up my turkey-timing). I was running around like a mad woman, talking to myself, my hair unbrushed, my clothes spattered with mashed potatoes and spit-up. It was indeed a glamorous life.
Finally, when everyone arrived, the bounty was laid before us. I invited our guests to take a plate and serve themselves, when Jeremy, then 11-months-old, started wailing at the top of his lungs. I went to get Jeremy out of the highchair and realized that I’d forgotten the cranberry sauce. With Jeremy under one arm I carried the cranberry sauce over and saw the empty decorative bowl sitting in the middle of the table, waiting for something to go into it, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what… I took the bowl off the table, wondering seriously if I had lost my mind. I sat, with my screaming baby in my arms and surveyed the scene.
Baby’s first Thanksgiving.
A week’s worth of work.
The war-zone that was my kitchen.
The stress. The mess. The cost!
As I took a deep breath, my frazzled nerves started to settle. Jeremy immediately fell asleep on my shoulder. I was tired, and my feet hurt. It was only as I was clearing away the dishes from the feeding-frenzy did I realize that not one of us stopped to acknowledge the reason why we were together.
To give thanks.
We do this a lot, we human beings, and not just at Thanksgiving. We prep and pressure ourselves to death in our attempt at perfection and forget what we’re doing it all for—our “reason why.” We do it personally. We do it professionally. We do it organizationally.
We pay a price.
The year of Jeremy’s first Thanksgiving was filled with devastation, for so many people. The Tsunami in South East Asia, in which 175,000 people lost their lives. The earthquake in Pakistan that took 54,000 lives. The numbers don’t sound real. While I was stressing out over a turkey, the survivors of these tragedies were without a home. They had lost everything they owned. They were mourning their lost friends and loved ones. Entire communities.
The year of Jeremy’s first Thanksgiving also brought great joy. Babies were born. Milestones were reached. Friends were made. So much to be grateful for.
2018 has also carried with it heart-wrenching devastation and pain and unbelievable joy.
If we, in the United States, have only one day a year during which we collectively give thanks for all we have, let us not squander it. Let us not waste it in stressing over silly things like sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts (although one year my mom mistakenly put cayenne pepper in the sweet potatoes instead of cinnamon and that made for an interesting day!).
Stay connected to “your reason why.” For we all have so many reasons to be thankful that we may not even see.
Maybe it’s through counting our blessings that we discover the season of joy. #BraveLeadership