About Engage

Engage exists to provide perspective on culture through the eyes of a Biblical worldview, showing how that worldview intersects with culture and engages it.

We are a team of 20-somethings brought together by a common faith in Jesus Christ and employment in our parent organization American Family Association.

Have an Unconventional Thanksgiving

Canada Burns
Graphic Designer

The typical American Thanksgiving consists of turkey, family, football, hoodies, and playing in piles of leaves. At least, that is what it was like every year when I was young. It was the time of year when family got together, ate a ton of food, and ushered in the Christmas season. 

I was attending a Christian college in 2007 that had a very strict class attendance policy. This was generally fine with me, but I found out something unexpected during my freshman year: we did not get the Friday after Thanksgiving off. For me and many of my friends from the other side of the country (some from the other side of the world) this was a problem. This meant we were unable to go home for Thanksgiving.

The general reaction I get from most people when I tell them I did not go home for Thanksgiving for four years of my existence is, “You mean you didn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving? That’s terrible! Isn’t that against the law or something?"

First of all, we got a nice, long Christmas break; a trade off that suited me pretty well. Also at the school I went to, they went all out for Thanksgiving. The cafeteria served a special dinner with all the trimmings for students, as well as a plethora of other special events including a big Thanksgiving service and a fine arts performance. Still, I cannot deny that I felt a twinge of homesickness the first Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving, like Christmas, can become routine and, as the creatures of habit we humans are, anything different from what we expect just seems wrong. Yet spending Thanksgiving away from my family for four years taught me three practical things about Thanksgiving itself that I will never forget.

Thanksgiving involves family, not just blood relations.

One of the best things about my college experience was the incredibly diverse group of people I called friends. I knew people from Honduras, Japan, Haiti, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, and several states around the US. I spent my Thanksgivings at school with my friends. We went to the special dinner and fine arts events together. One year the cafeteria forgot to defrost the apple pies. It turned out to be more funny than bothersome. It was never about the meal, but about being together. We had a great time of fellowship and enjoyed the holiday. I was reminded of what the apostle Paul told his fellow Christians in Colossians 3:14-15, "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."

It didn’t matter what country we were from, who we were, or where we were going. We were family. We were brothers and sisters in Christ giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is about tradition more than tradition.

Eating Thanksgiving at the cafeteria was not always the most glamorous meal. Yet I have to give props to the food services at my Alma Mater for serving up some pretty awesome turkey and dressing. So the food was not my mom’s…that just made me value her cooking even more in later years. We also did not get the chance to watch football (practically a religious exercise in the south), but I was oddly fine with that. There were no piles of leaves either and we definitely did not wear hoodies to the fine arts program. Things were very different. At first it seemed odd, like we were not really able to celebrate Thanksgiving. But as the years went by, I realized that though traditions are great, there is nothing wrong with making new ones. It is not wrong to try something new. Breaking away from the norm actually made me appreciate and give thanks for what I had even more.

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.

It is called Thanksgiving, not family-football-and-food day. When the Pilgrims came over in 1620 and had the first Thanksgiving, they called it that because they were thankful. With living in the harsh conditions of winter, starting a new society, and trying to smooth things out with the Native Americans, they were thankful to just be alive. During Christmas, we often forget that the true spirit of Christmas is about Christ’s birth. The same goes for Thanksgiving. The purpose is to take a look at what God has blessed you with and thank Him for it. During those four years at school, I had friends, a warm bed at night, clothes on my back, and food in front of me. Not everyone has those things. Realizing this changed my perspective from one of homesickness to warm thankfulness. Sometimes it is hard to see God’s blessings when you focus on what you do not have.

I think everyone should experience an unconventional Thanksgiving at least once in his or her life. Four years of Thanksgivings away from family taught me that true thanksgiving is not born of wealth, comfort, or familiarity. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” True thankfulness is not swayed by circumstances. This year let us strive for true thanksgiving and praise God for all we have been blessed with. Even the frozen pie.



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