Even after Thanksgiving's come and gone, don't forget to be grateful

Joel van der Veen
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Rice-A-Roni stuffing. Depending on your taste, it might sound like a sodium overload, a tacky insult to Thanksgiving or a combination of the two. (There’s a good chance you’re currently stuffed from feasting over the weekend, and quite uninterested in any discussion of food.)

But for the van der Veen family, it has been a tradition — nay, almost a sacrament — for decades, right up there with salty black licorice, cream puffs and nasi goreng, a spicy fried rice dish imported from Indonesia during the colonial era.

That stuffing was one of the dishes I always looked forward to at Thanksgiving and Christmas, prepared in Oma’s kitchen in Willowdale, Ont.

Even now, on my mind's tongue, I can still taste the combined flavour of The San Francisco Treat and whatever else she threw in there — glimpse it sitting in that big Corningware dish, amongst the potatoes, meatballs and turkey meat.

If we were quick enough to finish and then grab the dish on its second trip around the table — or rather, the dinner table and two card tables tacked on the end to seat our large family — we might get a second helping.

This year, I was again denied the opportunity to taste that particular delicacy at Thanksgiving, as I remained in Saskatchewan for the long weekend.

While I would have been delighted to share the holiday with my family and friends in Ontario, I am still grateful to have three days off from work, time to relax and share with the friends I have made here.

Cliched though it may sound, the weekend also provides ample opportunity to reflect on the blessings of the past year, and everything for which we ought to be thankful. If you didn’t have the time over the holidays, I invite you to consider it now.

In our consumer culture, it seems, we’re often encouraged to ignore quaint concepts like gratitude, modesty and contentment.

What we have is never enough. We’re constantly seeking more, more, more. In the words of the Boss: “Poor men wanna be rich/Rich men wanna be kings/And a king ain’t satisfied ‘till he rules everything.”

We get so caught up in these desires that we forget to be grateful for the things we already have. And if you’re like many North Americans, you’re probably so blessed you can’t even keep track anymore.

I know I’m certainly not immune to this, and it’s an area in my life that needs work. I’m often tempted by that attitude, that twisted perception through which wants are regarded as needs, and honest principles like saving for a rainy day and sharing with those in need are forgotten.

In moments of clarity, though, I realize that my purest moments of joy haven’t come through whatever creature comforts I’ve amassed or relentlessly pursuing the latest and greatest.

Rather, they’ve come through simple, ordinary things: a Sunday morning service at church, a meal together with friends and loved ones, a walk through the park on a sunny afternoon.

When we look back, these are the moments we will treasure, the humble but abundant blessings with which our years are filled.

To quote another ancient lyricist: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Thanksgiving has now passed, and soon we will begin preparing for Christmas, another holiday where the primary message is often overlooked, hiding behind a barrage of commercialism and greed.

So here’s a challenge: rather than letting go of your gratitude, allow it to grow. Rather than seeking more, remember to cherish and appreciate what you have, even the simple things.

Like Rice-A-Roni stuffing.

Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.

Geographic location: Indonesia, Oma, Willowdale Saskatchewan Ontario

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