From the Headmaster's Desk, November 23, 2017
Yes, it is one of my favourite days of the year, and definitely my favourite holiday.
Granted, today is not actually a holiday, as here we all are in school, but lucky for me tomorrow is a holiday at Blue Coat, and I have all the ingredients at home to prepare Thanksgiving feast tomorrow evening.
Today, the real Thanksgiving, is that day that 46 million turkeys will be consumed in America; it is estimated that 88% of Americans will have turkey today. My turkey was delivered yesterday and it is from a lovely farm in Norfolk; whilst I might be dining a day later than my friends and family in the States, I’m confident that my English turkey is of outstanding quality – I have used this farm before.
Thanksgiving is a sort of American version of the Harvest Festival that we celebrate here. It dates back to early settlers in America, who were, of course, English. They were grateful that they had survived a year in the new colonies, and wanted to celebrate their harvest with a feast of gratitude and thanksgiving.
One of the things I love the most about Thanksgiving is that it involves the extraordinary features of a typical Christmas Day feast, but without all the faff of decorations and presents. This might be where I admit that I really love food, more than presents, and I do. I also love to cook, so I’m excited about being able to cook a large meal tomorrow for 11 people with all of my favourite trimmings.
Food aside, the lovely thing about Thanksgiving is that the day itself is about being thankful. It reminds me of other occasions where people give thanks.
Like many of you, I enjoy watching Wimbledon in the summer, and one of the best bits is watching the post-match interviews in the finals, where normally composed and disciplined professionals cry tears of joy and gratitude, thanking their families and friends for the special moment.
Similarly, when someone wins an Oscar, a BAFTA, an MTV Video Music Award, or BBC Sports Personality: the winner stands on stage and thanks their friends and family, as the camera zooms in on the proud spouse or children or friend or co-worker. These moments of genuine gratitude are lovely.
Of course, the awkward bit is if the person in the spotlight forgets to thank someone. Often they pull out a list so they don’t forget anyone, or they almost finish and then they say, ‘oh, I mustn’t forget to thank so and so’. But nearly being forgotten is almost as bad as being forgotten.
Of course saying thank you is important, but neglecting to say thank you is also a very bad thing.
The passage read this morning is also about gratitude. In this Biblical story, Jesus is travelling along a road and sees ten men who are outcasts, ostracised from their community for having leprosy, a horrible skin disease. Jesus heals the ten men and then one of them returns, thanking Jesus, throwing himself at Jesus’ feet in gratitude.
Jesus thanks the man and says, ‘Where are the other nine?’ After all, Jesus healed ten of them, not one.
Obviously, it is great that the one man came back, but the author’s main point here is that Jesus was annoyed that the other nine didn’t bother saying thank you.
So, I encourage us all, this Thanksgiving, to think about what you have and to be thankful for it. Our hymn today includes the lines, ‘Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided’. Every morning, every day is a gift. And Christians believe that all we have needed, God has provided. It is true that most of us here live comfortable lives in this rather comfortable part of the country. Let us not take that for granted.
Thanksgiving is, at its core, a deeply religious holiday where one gives thanks to God for all that one has. Even for those of you who are not religious, the notion of being grateful is a powerful one, and the festival worth considering.
And like the Wimbledon or other award winners, let’s not forget anyone to whom we owe thanks. Do you thank your teachers for their lessons? Or that school trip? Or that lunchtime or after-school activity? A little, ‘thank you, sir or ma’am’ goes a long way.
Do you thank your parents for things they give you, be it the clothes you wear or a lift in their car (or a car!) or a holiday? Perhaps even routine things you take for granted, like sending you to this school? Or even more basic things, like food and shelter?
If a good number of you go home today and thank your parents for something, anything, then I would be delighted to know that the good spirit of this holiday has had a positive impact on our community.
My favourite tradition of Thanksgiving, and this is quite cheesy, is that I go around the table and ask everyone to say what they are thankful for. We will do this tomorrow evening in my home.
So I challenge you all to pause for a moment: What are you thankful for?
I wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving, and a safe and restorative weekend.