Feeling alone and looking forward to connecting with the family back home, my brother John headed for the complimentary buffet in his hotel on Thanksgiving Day during his stay in Thailand.
He was feeling a bit overweight and was berating himself for not having been very successful on the Atkins diet that he and some other members of the family had been on. He headed for the dining room with a sense of looming failure.
As he wound his way through the platters of food, his joy waned and his guilt increased until he was standing in front of a savory but not low-calorie dish. The Thai waiter attending the table cordially offered to serve him. In Thailand, my brother recalled, being a bit overweight is a sign of success.
The waiter's warmth and heartfelt comments touched my brother's heart. He stood there in awe, feeling lovingly embraced by the kindness of the gentle waiter. This meal was a celebration of gratitude; it wasn't about food.
John's self- condemnation and guilt about his appetite melted, and he graciously and gratefully accepted the dish and the satisfying food for thought. The true meaning of Thanksgiving welled up in him. This season of gratitude is a celebration of the spiritual goodness of life.
He e-mailed me that night that the entire day was filled with love.
Holidays are a time of celebration. Sharing food and gift-giving don't need to leave us in debt or with added pounds. Substance is in the spiritual qualities expressed through the care we provide and that is provided to us.
When you feel the warmth of a hug, it's not the arms that feel good but the love expressed through the embrace. A smile can brighten someone's day because of the message it holds. And the sun can break through dark clouds just at the moment of inspiration - reassuring us that there is more to life than what's on the surface.
Everyday experiences can point to spiritual reality, to God with us. They turn thought to deeper, more satisfying spiritual dimensions, where life takes on lasting depth and purpose.
This season I found joy and insight while Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
For the first time ever, my grown daughter and I decided to join the crowds on that day and find some bargains for Christmas gifts. With six children and 12 grandchildren on our list, we thought this would be a good idea.
Before leaving home at 5:30 a.m., I spent time praying. I made it a goal not to leave at home my sense of being in the love of God but to take this feeling with me and see God's love in action, especially on this busy day.
I met and connected with new friends everywhere we went. Waiting in line we laughed. The store clerks appreciated our grateful attitude. Things we were looking for appeared at just the right place and price. Everyone seemed happy and loving.
The day ended with an opportunity to help an older woman load her car. She told us that she had a weak heart. I assured her that she could trust her heart to the care of God. She looked into my eyes and said, "Bless you, I believe that."
What we did that day reminded me of this statement by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy: "Like our Master, we must depart from material sense into the spiritual sense of being" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 41). Cultivating a spiritual sense of life brings joy and freedom.
Each gift, whether given or received, is an opportunity for gratitude for the gifts of God's abundant care and constant love. Each bite of food is an opportunity to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8).
Appreciating the deeper meaning of the holiday will more naturally satisfy us. What we eat and what we spend won't be out of control.
My brother's meal tasted wonderful before he took a bite, and the joy of giving the gifts we purchased will last far beyond Christmas.
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for
his wonderful works to the children
of men! For he satisfieth
the longing soul, and filleth
the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalms 107:8, 9