What if we expanded the concept of Thanksgiving?

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We say a lot of good stuff on Thanksgiving. Let's do it more often.

By Steve Doyle

What will you say on Thursday? What will cross your heart and your lips and spill out from your soul onto the dinner table like so much runaway gravy?

Thanksgiving is the day when more of us express their truest, innermost feelings more openly and freely than at any other time of the year.

We may express surprise and elation at Christmas, love on Valentine’s Day, reverence on Easter and respect on a parental day, but Thanksgiving…well, isn’t it built on our best emotions?

Sometimes it seems inappropriate that the primary symbol of this wonderful holiday is a dressed turkey lying on a platter, as if the decapitation and denuding of a proud bird is something to be celebrated.

Yes, that’s the tradition, the big feast with loved ones all around, joining as a family and community in honor of something far more important than yams and pumpkin pie – in my view farmore important than those two.

My wife loves Thanksgiving more than any holiday, and I’ve always held it in my heart as something unique and special.

And it’s not because either of us is a gourmet or a big eater. It’s because of the side dishes – the family, friends and feelings that feed us in places where not even mashed potatoes will stick.

It’s a time when each of us around the table – whether it’s four or 24 of us – can pause and say what makes him or her thankful, what makes a difference, what resonates inside us.

I’ve heard poems read, prayers said and memories of the dead.

I’ve heard heartfelt praises to the lord, and I’ve heard the first public words uttered by shy little ones.

I’ve seen tears, heard sniffles, felt hand squeezes and felt the words shake through my body as if formed and fed by a force greater than me.

I’ve heard joyful noises and giggles.

And I’ve even heard – believe it or not – when that whole process was done and the eating had begun, plenty of freshly baked “I love you’s.”

Imagine that.

One of my problems with Thanksgiving is that when it’s my turn, I sometimes have trouble editing down my feelings (as anyone who wades through these words each week well knows). They sometimes run together in this emotional stream of consciousness, and I allow them to become a waterfall of memories that flow through me.

And why is that? Why is it that when we unleash the emotional attachments deep within us that they tend to explode toward our lips?

Maybe it’s because we spend so much time repressing those feelings or letting them get shoved aside by the traumas of daily life.

Maybe the emotional carousel doesn’t stop on “thankfulness” as often as it should.

But should it require a red-letter day on a calendar to bring out those deep feelings?

Yes, I know Sundays are set aside for worship, which obviously includes words of thanksgiving. I’m one of those who believes all good is traced to God’s will.

But those tithes of blessings on Sundays are focused less on the specifics of what someone else did to visit thankfulness on our lives.

They sometimes become too formulaic and too general.

The words of Thanksgiving Day tend to be the most personal uttered between most humans each calendar year.

So what if we just decided to do it more often?

What if we didn’t wait until a Thursday late in November to open our hearts and express our thanks and did it more routinely?

Would our feelings sound as pure, as focused, as intensely meaningful if they were part of our flip through the calendar rather than a stop once a year?

Yes, rhetorical questions run amok, but I would like us to try.

I propose that we select one day each month – and I’m going to say it should be the first day of the month, because that’s when we tend to get lost in bill-paying and mission-seeking – that we pause and give thanks to those we love and appreciate and for all the blessings that cross our lives.

How about it? Will you do it with me?

Will you write this on your calendar and create a monthly day of Thanksgiving that takes the purity of our November feast and extends it throughout the year?

No, I don’t expect calendar companies or Hallmark to get behind the effort. Certainly Macy’s can’t do a monthly parade.

We don’t need to have a slavery day in the kitchen, and certainly my waistline, at least, could not take 11 more huge intakes.

But my heart sure could use a powerful embrace from openly expressed love.

And that comes with zero fat and zero calories.