Today, social media will be filled with pictures. The pictures will consists of plates of stuffing and mashed potatoes. You'll see images of sisters and brothers who have not seen each other in several months or even years. You'll see grandparents swooping up their latest addition to their families while spoiling them rotten. There is always that huge part of you that enjoys seeing the images and then there is a part of you that feels a tinge of jealousy.
Thanksgiving is that time of year when families travel from all over, sit around a table and share a turkey while feeling gratitude for all their many blessings. People get their much needed days off, stuff their faces, and then dig through the Black Friday ads. It's a time of togetherness, a time of familiarity and a time of reflection. That's what every Thanksgiving commercial tells us anyway. But, what about those who have to skip out on the celebrations or have to spend them without the warmth of their spouse or the presences of their children?
I remember my first Thanksgiving alone. I was a newlywed, pregnant, and just starting to learn the ropes of this whole police wife gig. At first, I watched as my brothers and sisters-in-law embraced each other, played with their children, and exchanged jokes. They busted out the board games and everyone had a partner except me. I would be lying if I said that it didn't bother me. I would be lying if I said that I wished he had the day off. And, even in my sad little pity party of first world problems, I knew I was focusing on everything that was about me and not about anything else.
My husband got home sometime in the middle of the night. He had to stay late. There was a domestic call that involved a fight between parents and three very scared little boys. It wasn't just an argument. It was a full blown fist fight and the mother was on the receiving end. My husband sat down and told me the story about how the youngest, around the age of 4, recognized his uniform immediately. They had been there before and this was an old song and dance for him. He made eye contact with my husband, walked over to him with his tired little eyes and his dirty face, grabbed a hold of his pants leg and refused to let go. To him, my husband was safety. To him, my husband was a symbol of strength.
As I listened to his story, I pictured how I imagined my son would be once he entered this world. I pictured him as a four year old and I knew that he would never experience the same kind of night that his fellow child had endured on Thanksgiving. In that moment, I realized that Thanksgiving wasn't about me spending time with my husband at all. It was about my husband being available to the people who needed him more than me in that moment. It was about the woman who needed to be rescued from an abusive boyfriend. It was about the elderly woman who called 911 because her husband had died and she was lonely. It was about the man who had lost his life while traveling to his Thanksgiving destination and it was about my husband delivering the news to his mother.
Perspective is a powerful thing. I know it can be extremely difficult to share your spouse or loved one with the rest of the world, especially in times where it feels like the world doesn't always appreciate them. The simple truth is really that simple. People who have a divine calling to serve a purpose larger than themselves do not stop because a day has been deemed a holiday. They stand ready and willing to answer that next call. That is what sets them apart. That is what makes me love them. That is why they are undeniable servants to our nation.
While so many of us are sharing why we are thankful this Thursday, let's remember to be thankful for them. Let's be thankful that they are the kind of men and women who will pass on the turkey and the pies, the fellowship and the family, the laughter and the warmth to answer that next call. Be thankful that's who they are instead of unthankful that they aren't present. Their presence is needed elsewhere. There are people out there that need them more than we do. If they are willing to answer that next call with an unknown fate, we have to be willing to sacrifice another Thursday night without them.