I love Thanksgiving. Who doesn't? It is one of those rare occasions, particularly in this crazy age we now live, where we come together as a family, sit together as a family, and eat together as a family. Who would have thought this would ever be such a rarity? But it is. It is a unique, annual opportunity to be with the people we love, which is why it is so important to maximize this time and share more than our food, but to share our feelings, our gratitude and our love.
Yes, just being together is in itself a blessing. However, if you want to transform this from just another meal into a lasting memory that will continue on long after the tryptophan induced coma from the turkey is gone - then try the following. Share with your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces, nephews, cousins and friends - your legacy.
So what does that mean, "share your legacy?"
First, we're not talking about the dictionary's definition, "an amount of money or property left to someone in a will." As much as everyone around the table would love for you to pass out Cashiers Checks, what our loved ones want, need, and pine for from us are our words of praise and appreciation, admiration and love. Sharing your heartfelt feelings with those around the table - what you see in them and what you love about them, is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Here are some resources if you are looking to read or recite formal blessings, readings or prayers. It's from an article I wrote a few years back addressing someone looking for something to read on Thanksgiving. Check It Out!
Sharing your legacy is equally about conveying to your loved ones that which is truly important to you, what matters most to you in this lifetime - the values you stand for, the causes you are committed to, your raison d'etre - your reason for being. Your family may very well already know it, but they need to hear it, and you need to say it. So say it, convey it and share it with those whom you love.
And sharing your legacy is about bestowing upon your loved ones a charge - charing them what you expect from them in this life and long after you are gone. This isn't about telling them what profession to pursue, who to marry or pushing them down the path of your dreams. Rather, this is charging them with what you expect from them regarding your highest ideals - take care of one another, live a life of truth, call your mother every Sunday. You get it. The core stuff. The important stuff. The "absolutes" for you in life that you expect to be upheld even in your death.
Lastly, sharing your legacy is about offering blessings. I'm not talking generic, universal blessings, "may their be peace on earth and goodwill between all humans." That's lovely, but meaningless, certainly meaningless to a child who is missing their dad, wanting, wishing or longing for a personal blessing that will never come. I'm talking about taking your daughter by the shoulders, looking your grandchild straight in the eyes and saying, "I see you. I know you. I love you and here is why....." It is about recognizing their strengths, acknowledging their talents and understanding their gifts. It's about articulating these things and then re-stating them as a blessing of what you see in them, what you want for them, what you know will be. Blessing another is about bearing witness to someone's life and in the end you are the witness they want and need.
So yes, this Thanksgiving kick back, relax, watch football with your family, laugh, schmooze, hang out simply enjoying one another's company. However, come turkey time, take a few moments and give thanks. Don't just mumble some rote words of prayer before you break bread. Rather, take this precious time while you have it to truly give thanks. Give thanks for those around the table. Go around the table (or do it one by one during the course of the day) and offer specific words to every person there - words of gratitude, words of blessing, words of love.
That my friends is how you leave a legacy - a legacy that your family will carry with them, and carry on, long after you are gone.
Have a happy, gratitude filled, blessing stuffed, legacy leaving Thanksgiving and, God willing, many more to come.