I was at the giant gas station right off Hwy 10 on the outskirts of Detroit Lakes filling up when I noticed the woman about my age at the pump directly across from mine. The 40 mph wind roaring across the prairie from Fargo and points west had created a wind tunnel effect and for one horrid moment, I feared she’d been flash frozen in place, clutching the pump handle in a bare, manicured hand. She stood in heels staring eastward with a Grumpy Cat “I can’t BELIEVE this !@#$!! WIND!!!” frown. Suddenly, she caught me looking her way and smiled, shrugging in the way we do here in Minnesota when there’s not a darn thing we can do about -15 windchill factors and hard windshield washer fluid in mid-November. I shrugged back and forced a sympathetic smile of polar vortex solidarity and thought, hold on, Sister. We’ll get our tanks filled and get back into our cars and blow on our hands and be warm again, I promise. We will live to buy a turkey. Maybe even bake a pie or ten. All will be well, my frozen friend. All will be well. It’s nearly Thanksgiving.
As legend and history tells us, for many of our forefathers and foremothers, the first Thanksgiving was about having survived a winter in a harsh new land and then thanking God for dark-haired people who probably just felt a moral obligation not to stand by and let their clueless, light-skinned new neighbors with funny hats starve to death. But what a concept. A holiday dedicated simply to being grateful. For the big things and the small ones, too. Wouldn’t it be great if we could walk into a Gratitude Station and fill up our hearts with thanks the way we fill our cars or our bellies? I think that maybe that’s what church is for, for some folks. For others, it’s a sunrise that starts as blaze orange right before the sun peeks over a lake on November mornings. Maybe it’s a doctor’s call that tells you that your most recent scan is clean, or the sound of boys and men full of turkey celebrating a touchdown in the family room. Maybe it’s a passed class or a new job. Maybe it is looking around a table laden with familiar food and seeing the people you love best gathered for another Thanksgiving happy, healthy, and whole. And then, thinking, this is all that matters. This moment. This tribe. This memory. This.
And in that moment, counting one’s blessings. Every single one.