Early childhood memories of Thanksgiving revolve around two staples: turkey and Captain Kangaroo. In 1963, the iconic children’s television host faithfully greeted children across the nation before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. America was reeling from the assassination of the president, the vigilante murder of his alleged shooter on live television, and the poignant farewell salute of young John F. Kennedy Jr. Yet there they were, Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans, setting the table, carrying in the bronzed turkey, and bowing to pray as the music echoed: “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”
At age eight, I struggled with the juxtaposition of great tragedy and the traditional celebration of gratitude. Now, in November 2020, those same feelings are present. COVID-19 has clouded our vision, stoking fear and discord. Experts tell us not to “gather together” outside our bubble, and the empty seats at the table are stark reminders of the power of the virus, of the great losses our world is suffering.
Walter Wangarin Jr. writes of Mary Magdalene, bereft at the crucifixion of Jesus. “Mary, do this. Even in your despair, observe the rituals . . . Pray your prayers . . . prepare your spices.” And so, we set the table, carry in the bronzed turkey, and bow to pray, giving thanks to the Lord of mercy and comfort. And as we pray, a hymn still echoes: “We gather together . . . sing praises to his name, he forgets not his own.”
Alumna Dr. Joann Shade (MA in Pastoral Counseling 2000 & Doctor of Ministry 2006)
In retirement from full-time Salvation Army ministry, Dr. JoAnn Shade divides her time between being Nana to four grandchildren, advising D.Min. students at ATS, and serving as a writing midwife for new authors. She is currently working on The House of Women, a book about the women in King David’s life.