It was horrible. Wretched, actually. The family had buzzed into Monroe for Thanksgiving this year. Wait a sec: that wasn’t the horrible part. The terror came after lunch when we, all stuffed from the more-than-plenty lunch table, eased into recliners, slumped onto sofas or collapsed into beds for that wonderful ritual, The Thanksgiving Nap.
Just as I nodded off–no really– JUST, as I stepped into sleep, the most heinous, awful, nightmarish sound ripped clean through by gravy-muddled head.
Some guy next door had decided Thanksgiving Day was a perfect day to enjoy God’s great outdoors and to heighten his outdoor adventure, to chainsaw a Luzianna Live Oak tree.
I tossed and turned for five minutes. But there was no letting up with this guy. I tried burrowing my head into my pillow. No relief. I waited, certain that a well meaning neighbor would rise to defend his family’s American right to holiday peace and quiet. No one moved.
Finally, just as I’d dismissed the idea of wedging myself between the bed’s two mattresses to reduce the painful buzzing of the irreverent lumberjack, I decided I would be the man who made a stand. If no one else would stand up for the Honor of Thanksgiving tradition; if no one else would rise to defend his family’s need for an afternoon of silent reflection; if none other would man up to preach the truth that the Day was worth more than the Dollar…I would stand up to be that Crusader.
And I did. As I walked next door, he was sitting in the back of his utility van, half sitting actually between the van floor and the bumper. A younger man was the one wielding the deafening chain saw. As I approached to give this older guy a piece of my mind, to deliver a fiery sermon, I felt frustration flushing through my face.
As I walked closer, he stared at me. I stared back. The younger man looked toward me, and continued chain sawing. I wondered how to best rip into this irreverent sort, and, realizing I was actually ill-prepared… I froze.
He stared for another minute and then walked toward me, measuring me with his mean eyes. Dressed in an old jacket and looking pretty tattered himself, he stepped up to me and…He stepped up…and offered his hand. He introduced himself, but showed no smile. I half heartedly introduced myself as well. He exclaimed that it was a pleasure to meet me and came close to smiling.
Suddenly I felt sick. I felt tired, burdened. I asked him if he were about done, and he nodded. I inquired, “Why are you working on Thanksgiving Day?” He quickly erupted into apology: “Oh, sir, I’m so sorry. I bet we’ve interrupted your dinner, or maybe your nap. What was I thinking?”
“Oh heavens no,” I lied, and asked him again, this time more kindly, “How is it you and your son are doing tree cutting on a holiday?” If the migraine caused from his loud, obnoxious afternoon endeavor hadn’t quite killed me, his reply to my repeated question finished me off.
“Well, I lost my wife this year. It’s been real rough, so my boy and me are doing anything we can today to keep our mind off … Family.” And there it was! The haggard old Tree Cutter teaching the Doctor of Family Therapy that all behavior makes sense, if you know the whole story! Quoting friend, Charlie Brown: “Arrrrrrrrgh! How could I be such a blockhead!”
I felt foolish. I felt ashamed. I felt so…un-Christian. I offered him some platitudes, I don’t really know what. And I walked away…back to my place…where everyone inside had somehow managed to sleep through the massacre next door.
Then Portico came to mind. I remembered this nice young guy and his lovely wife, Michael and Rosemary, telling us at Portico small group that they were hosting a Thanksgiving meal for the community, college kids, mostly, I think. I raced over to the Wesley Foundation on ULM’s campus, only half-expecting anyone to still be there, since it was now near mid afternoon. To my surprise though, I spotted good old Michael’s car in the parking lot. I walked in, hoping to fetch a couple of plates for the poor guys who’d lost wife and mother.
Portico should really get to know this couple, Michael and Rosemary. They both grinned and greeted me with great enthusiasm. I described the story and they quickly began putting plates together: and I do mean, plates! Turkey and dressing and vegetables. Rolls and another handful of turkey. And, ready? An entire homemade apple pie. Oh my!
I made haste, back to my house. And unloaded the goods. To say the gents were overwhelmed would hardly be an exaggeration. The older man began to soften. He told me more about the wife and the loss and the pain. His son said his dad really needed to see…ready?…yes, a therapist. As I identified myself as such, the younger spoke, “Daddy, see this today was all meant to be.” the two men began to sob. But..not me.
No, I waited until I walked back inside my home, and in the quiet of the holiday afternoon, I began to sob and to praise, and to truly, really, without abandon, offer up… genuine thanksgiving.
by Bill Riddle