It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, and while we, as Orthodox Christians are supposed to be thankful for everything we have, and give glory to God for everything always, it’s good to be reminded that we’re supposed to do that.
One thing I struggle with is the notion that we’re to be thankful for everything that comes our way – not just the things we take for granted, like breathing, air, water and the earth under our feet, or for the blessings and gifts that we have, but we’re to be thankful for our trials and troubles as well. I’m not sure why we’re supposed to do this, so this year, for Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought I’d give it a try.
Let’s start with something simple. I’m one of those certified grumpy babas who hate noisy kids anywhere, but especially in church. My glare has been known to freeze terrible two year olds in their tracks. Freedom loving five year olds cower when I turn around in church, and the tantrumy tens quail and scatter to the four winds when I walk down the nave toward them. (I’m only going to turn the coffee on, but they’re never really sure.) I can’t wait to get a cane, to see what their reactions will be when I wave it around.
If I’m being completely honest, it’s not the kids’ faults. And it isn’t the fault of their parents, either. I’m easily distracted, which is one of the reasons I stand as close to the iconostasis as Father will let me (he got annoyed when he found my nose prints on the icon of the Forerunner). Kids at certain ages make a certain amount of noise. It’s not their fault it goes straight from their mouths into the part of my brain that amplifies it to the volume of a of an Air Force jet hitting Mach 1. When I was a kid, I made noise. I remember my mother shushing me. “Beverley, don’t yell,” she’d continually tell me. In fact, my husband just shushed me the other day, when the reader and I got into a discussion after liturgy about some theological point. “Bev, don’t yell,” he said during post-communion prayers.
Everybody knows that kids have more energy than adults. They suck the energy from us while we sleep, which is why we’re so tired and they’re so bouncy in the morning. That’s a well known fact. So, I guess it’s no surprise that kids can’t keep still for two whole hours. That’s a long time for little bodies full of their parents’ energy. It’s not easy for me, either, I have to admit. I wish I was one of those old-fashioned million year old babas who could stand absolutely still for an eight hour service, then walk eighty miles home with a bundle of firewood on my back the that was twice my weight and three times my height, plow the back forty, milk the cow and churn the butter before making dinner, then spend the evening standing absolutely still for another three hour service. But I’m a soft, pampered North American, and my back hurts, so I have to shift to make it stop hurting. My feet hurt, so I have to stand on one leg and move to the other before I fall over. The air is dry and it makes my skin itch, so I have to scratch. The incense chokes me so I have to open the window. The draft hits the back of my neck and I have to move away from it. The shawl won’t stay up properly and I have to wriggle to get it up over my shoulders again.
Most kids can’t sing worth a darn. They’re flat, they’re sharp, they’re off key and sound like some small furry creature being killed slowly. And it’s really annoying when they drown out the choir and the congregation, so I can’t hear them.
Hang on. Wait a minute. I don’t hear the choir because the kids are so loud. But if I was singing along, as I’m supposed to do, I wouldn’t hear them. I’d hear me. But I don’t hear me. I listen to the choir. I don’t sing in church anymore. I don’t read in church anymore, either. Yet, the Lord gave me a voice that could read well and clearly, and could carry a tune and stay on key. The Lord carried me through throat cancer to a complete cure, and I have not read or sung in church since my treatment finished for a lot of complicated reasons that when I untangle them amount to nothing more than pride and laziness.
So, yeah. I guess I do see why we’re to be grateful for our podvigs and our problems. I am grateful to the kids, and to God for showing me, through them, where my faults lie. Kids do what they do in innocence and because that’s the way God designed them. Kids are loud and energetic and off key before they became quiet, tired and more or less harmonic adults. I am loud and twitchy and silent because I’m selfish, thoughtless and proud.
Thank you children of my parish for teaching me humility. Glory to God for allowing me to see the blessing that each and every child really and truly is. Glory to God for every single frustrating, maddening, loud, energetic, off key, glorious, unique and wonderful one of you, and for every kid in every parish in the world. You’ve taught me humility and allowed me to see what a blessing you are.
And Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, whether you’re Canadian or not!
(But I still can’t wait to get my baba cane!)