Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Assignment


While teaching tenth-grade English, I devised a Thanksgiving writing assignment that called for each student to help decorate a large wall with two index cards telling—in no more than two printed sentences—what he was thankful for, both serious and silly. I was amazed by the students’ humorous creativity and touched by their unabashed honesty as they read their two cards to the class and then posted them on the wall in the two categories. About three decades later, the presentation that still sticks in my head was that of the timid girl who softly proclaimed her serious thanksgiving to the class: “I’m thankful that I know who my daddy is.” In the hush that followed, there were no laughs or giggles, only quiet uh huhs from several parts of the room. I loved all my students.

Today I’m still fascinated by the things people announce that they’re thankful for, and this year I’ve been very interested to read the Facebook posts of my friends in the 30 Days of Thanksgiving project--in particular, the wonderful (and serious) writings of Louise Tolbert and Patricia Monterella. They are an inspiration! Since I can’t say what they have said as well as they have said it, I’ve decided to revise my original writing assignment to include a third category: the “sorta serious” category. You know, the things that are not silly, but the things that definitely can’t be included along with family, God, health, country, and the other serious blessings we have.

Today, I’m thankful for the old things in my old house—no cracks about old people, please—particularly the old Christmas decorations, and particularly the old nativity set. (I’m also grateful for the blog format, which apparently does not require that I stay on topic, or keep to the dreaded five-paragraph formula, with specified items like introductions and conclusions; I can cheerfully segue into another topic without losing cohesion points, as long as ideas are tangentially related. Or not. Ah, the joy of an English teacher set free!)

Anyway, about the nativity set, aka manger scene, or crèche. I don’t know what happened to the one I routinely set up in my childhood years but assume that Mama threw it out when it started looking worn. I wish I still had it, no matter the condition. Nearly 50 years ago, when our boys were toddlers, we bought a boxed manger scene at Sears, and now my grandchildren put those figures out first and pack them up last when we decorate. The stable, now in bad shape, well represents the desperate status of the Holy Family. No hotel, no money, no doctor. The devotional today in Daily Guideposts is an account of Pam Kidd’s visit to a museum exhibit of classic, famous paintings of the manager scene, all showing the Holy Family garbed in fancy clothes. She questioned the necessity of a “gold-leaf Jesus” and said she missed “smelling the hay.” What a powerful statement about the significance of the humble origins of Jesus! One of my favorite Christmas songs is 4Him’s “A Strange Way to Save the World,” a song from Joseph’s perspective, emphasizing his belief that he and Mary were just ordinary people.

As my thoughts wander, I wonder. I wonder how did I get lucky enough to have so many blessings in my life. The silly and the serious. And the sorta serious.

Last random comment before posting: I’m watching the very good Alabama-Georgia game as I type and am thinking that it would be really great if they could both lose. (Yep, I’m orange and blue for life.)

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