As we approach our nation’s annual ritual of Thanksgiving, through which we reflect with gratitude on all the blessings we Americans enjoy (amidst the celebration of family togetherness and dysfunction), it raises in my mind the question that so many families ask: “Who’s fixing the turkey this year?”
Obviously, everyone has their different customs and traditions. In some families, different households take turns. With others, the responsibility usually falls upon (and is often coveted by) the closest matriarchal figure. Other times it falls upon the household with the most space.
Obviously, there are countless dynamics that come to play in how different families carry out this truly American tradition. Yet, I often wonder why in some extended families, where the difference of space or means between households is not a compelling issue, that so often it is the same person each year who steps up to host the guests and fix the turkey.
Perhaps it’s the same dynamic that we have seen in my chapter of the Knights of Columbus. We have more than one hundred members, and yet when it comes to volunteering for events and projects that support our church, it is always the same 25 to 30 guys who step up and make the effort.
So why do some people step up time and again, while others are content to just watch? Why are some of us eager to fix the turkey and trimmings, while others just bring the salad?
No doubt, sometimes people do the right things for the wrong reasons. At Thanksgiving, take for example the one who offers to host and cook the turkey dinner not because she wants to truly demonstrate her love for extended family. Rather, she hosts the family so she can show off a new house, new furnishings, or in some other way demonstrate her self-perceived higher status.
But most often I would suggest that is not the case. Indeed, most of the time when others willingly bear a heavier burden than the rest, for everyone’s equal benefit, it is not out of pride or other form of narcissism. Indeed, it is out of love.
What is love in this context? Saint Thomas Aquinas answers this best: “To will the good of the other for the sake of the other.” And indeed, that is what we are all called to do. Ultimately it leads to stronger homes and workplaces alike.
Regardless of your plans for this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to, as you give thanks, be mindful of those who have stepped up to lead, and to truly give of themselves in a proportion greater than the rest. And if you are not fixing the turkey this year, start by giving thanks for (and to) that person who is.