My family and I live in San Diego where the weather is pretty nice all year long. It feels like spring and summer are always on repeat. We do have one problem and it’s this: We have more palm trees than leaf trees. Finding a fall leaf around here is as rare as finding a moon rock. This time of year I need to try and imagine what Thanksgiving would feel like if we lived in a different part of the country. I dream about bundling up in wool sweaters, seeing our breath, and walking among trees with a blanket of colorful fall leaves under them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Well, okay, maybe a little. But I always jump at any chance to go places where the seasons are actually changing. Recently, Bob and I visited the Northeast, and it actually looked just as I had imagined. People were dressed in warm clothes and beautiful golden-brown, yellow, and red leaves were scattered everywhere.
Before we left, I asked Bob if he would collect some leaves with me so we could bring them home to use on our Thanksgiving table this year. We walked among hundreds of trees. There were millions of leaves to choose from. Yet we wandered around for a long time without having picked up any of them. The reason was simple: Because we were looking at all of them, we didn’t pick any of them. We were so intent looking for the “perfect” one, we missed seeing the leaves which would have been perfect for us.
I think we all do this to some degree with the needs we see around us. We look at all of them. We can see them by the dozens, by the thousands and because we do, we don’t end up picking any of them. It’s not that we aren’t compassionate or don’t care or don’t trust God for the details. In fact, the opposite is true. There are so many needs to choose from, it’s easy not to get around to just picking one. We’re afraid we won’t do it right or we’ll help in the wrong way, so we don’t help at all. If we’re paralyzed trying to get it right, we end up getting it wrong.
Eventually, Bob and I did get a couple leaves. Here’s how. We bent down and picked just one at a time. That’s all there was to it. We didn’t look at all of the leaves; we found one at a time. This Thanksgiving, bend down. Don’t look at the needs all around you. Pick one right in front of you, then bend down and pick one to love.
Everybody wants something to be thankful for. Much of our lives are spent figuring out what it is. It can be like so many leaves again. We all want the same things for our lives. To experience love and purpose and connection. We want to do things that don’t just work; we want things that last. Pick one of these things to be thankful for in your life and the lives of those around you to be thankful for.
This Thanksgiving we’ll do what we usually do and gather with the ones we love. We’ll cook all day with the doors and windows open just to let the heat out. The dining room table and chairs will get moved out onto the lawn and we’ll cover the top of it with the leaves we collected. We’ll give thanks to God for all the seasons, even if we’re stuck in only one of them, and take stock in the necessary rhythms of our lives. God knew what he was doing when He created all we experience with love. I can’t change what the weather looks like where we live, but I can appreciate the time we have with the people I get to enjoy it with, holding tight to the truth in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
This is your season and mine. Don’t stop with just being thankful. Bend down. Find someone who isn’t experiencing the kind of meaning and purpose you’re hoping to find in yours and give away extravagant love to them.
I bet someone’s praying right now we’ll be more afraid of not finding them than we are that we can’t pick one. Go ahead and pick someone to love.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die, A time to plant and a time to uproot, A time to kill and a time to heal, A time to tear down and a time to build, A time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dace, A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, A time to embrace and a time to refrain form embracing, A time to search and a time to give up, A time to keep and a time to throw away, A time to tear and a time to mend, A time to be silent and a time to speak, A time to love and a time to hate, A time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8