“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.”
— Victor Hugo
Thanksgiving traditions, I’m sure, can be found in many homes throughout Wilson County. The Felkins family’s most significant tradition was that of nonconformity.
Now I know my forthcoming description of Thanksgiving in my family will likely make Democrat community columnist Hershel Butts’ hair stand straight on the back of his neck, but it is what it is. I’ve never really been a fan of holier than thou attitudes, or conformity, for that matter.
This year, for example, our Thanksgiving lunch was served at 6 p.m., which makes sense given our head chef and my lovely wife worked third shift the night and into the morning before. She got off work at 7 a.m., hit a pre-Black Friday sale or two and got home around 8:30. She started work on the chicken and dressing before laying down for a good day’s sleep.
Throughout the day, she’d briefly start a task while completing another and rest in between.
I worked late myself the night before, so I slept in about as long as I could before our three children finally got me out of bed. It was more out of necessity than anything, because their commentary on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was just too much audibly for my wife to bear.
In any case, I had a Thanksgiving tradition of my own to which to tend. For three years running, I’ve attended the Market Street Church of Christ’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner. It has yet to disappoint.
For the past 11 years, give or take, the Market Street Church of Christ youth and other volunteers have fed the community Thanksgiving dinner. And the event has grown in popularity each year.
It’s a lot of work, admitted Felechia Wharton, one of the main organizers of the annual dinner. That’s one thing the group agrees on, even though they can’t decide just how long they’ve been doing it.
“Our original goal was to teach our children to give back to the community,” Wharton said.
She was certain the group was “so excited” to hand out 43 plates during their first year.
“One lady came in, and she cried,” Wharton said. “She said she didn’t know what she would have done for food without us. We said we were going to do it every year we are able. We say 11 years, but we know it’s a little longer than that.”
Regardless of its age, the church’s effort to provide Thanksgiving dinner to community members has grown each year. On Thursday, the group fed more than 250 people through delivering plates and walk-in service.
“That’s huge for us,” Wharton said. “It’s been such a blessing.”
And as the number of plates has grown over the years, so have the youth. Wharton said one example is Denzel Greer, who has volunteered to help at Thanksgiving each year. Greer gathered plates, loaded them on the church van and delivered them Thursday to those who requested them.
“He’s basically grown up doing this every year,” Wharton said. “We couldn’t do it without him and our other loyal volunteers.”
Each year, I’ve taken one of our two older children in hopes some of that giving back spirit resonates with one or both of them. Alas, that hasn’t happened yet.
But I’m quite certain I plan to keep on trying. I told Wharton it was the highlight of my Thanksgiving the past three years, and that’s the truth. What’s been consistent, but not surprising, are the same faces I see each year. Isn’t that often the case? It’s the few who do the work of many to benefit so many more.
I know I’m always inspired to do more by this small band of merry men and women.
So, at 6 p.m. we rolled out the television trays and enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving dinner after I returned from putting the newspaper to bed. Well four of us were gathered around the TV for dinner. My son was napping after waking up much too early in anticipation of the parade. You would have thought Santa Claus was coming, for Pete’s sake.
He got up around 8 and ate then.
So where does that leave us? We enjoyed all the traditional Thanksgiving delights, gave thanks to God for what we’ve been provided and enjoyed our family. But we did all of that in a rather nonconventional way. It was a great day.
So whatever traditions you have in your own home, make sure they’re your own. No matter how unconventional and non-traditional they are, they’re yours. So own them. There’s little more special than that.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.