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Faith & Values

I can already smell the roasted turkey, and my mouth waters in anticipation of mac-and-cheese, collard greens and sweet-potato pie. What is not to love about Thanksgiving? We get to be with family and friends — most of whom we like, eat great food and have a four-day weekend. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!

Although Thanksgiving is a great excuse to overindulge, I actually focus on the goodness of life more than I do the food. My heart swells with gratitude during this season even though life is not always fair, and some have experienced more than their share of pain and suffering.

I am so grateful for my family, those who are here today and those who have transitioned into eternity. While I miss the loved ones no longer around, my remembrance of them keeps me grounded and moving forward.

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We can be grateful for the memories of Thanksgivings gone by, but we cannot bring them back. Thanksgiving 2013 is a gift all its own. Try not to miss this year’s blessings by focusing on Thanksgivings gone by. We can embrace new friends and make them our family of choice if our families of birth are unable to be with us this year.

The challenge of Thanksgiving is to stop, breathe and reflect. If you are hosting the family meal, it is easy to be overwhelmed by myriad details while trying to create the perfect day.

But, striving for the perfect meal puts the attention on you and not on the giver of all good gifts. Thanksgiving is not about perfection, but gratitude. So overachieving cooks, you can let perfection go!

I certainly wish we paid more attention to the spirit of Thanksgiving instead of using the day to launch the mad rush toward Christmas. The annoying shop-till-you-drop Christmas commercials have been on for a couple of weeks now. Our email boxes are flooded daily with retail offers of free shipping and 30 percent discounts.

The big brouhaha this Thanksgiving is that more retailers will be open early for shopping. It may be tough to understand, but capitalism does not care about holidays. Its sole interest is profit and ROI (return on investment). We can exercise our opposition by not shopping at those stores. If the ROI is not worth it, retailers will not open next year on Thanksgiving.

It is unfortunate that some minimum-wage workers will be forced to work on this day generally set aside for families. Yet there will be others who want to work because they need the additional income.

Many are using the month of November to share their gratitude publicly. Every day, they post online something for which they are grateful. Even if you do not take an entire month to reflect, I certainly hope before the after-dinner stupor sets in on Thursday, you consider your blessings.

I believe we are blessed to be a blessing to others. So after giving thanks, make a plan to give back or pay it forward.

There are still people in The Philippines without shelter and struggling to survive. Pick a credible aid agency and give. Sadly, during the holiday season, domestic violence increases. So give to a shelter or safe home and help a family stay alive this Thanksgiving season.

While there is more food donated this time of year, people go to bed hungry year round. Pay it forward by committing to make a monthly donation to a food bank or Northwest Harvest.

’Tis the season for craziness, or, we can choose to slow down and count our blessings. I am choosing to count my blessings. I hope you do, too.

The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and senior benefits consultant for American Baptist Churches in the USA. Readers may send feedback to

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