I had a moment yesterday. It was just another moment like the ones I’ve been having all year. Another realization of something that won’t happen because of COVID.
My kindergartner came home with a big smile, telling me about this super fun activity she did: making a pumpkin out of a paper bag. Instead of celebrating her paper bag pumpkin, my reaction was more like, “OH NO! That reminds me about the precious kindergarten pumpkin day you don’t get to do!”
When her two big sisters were in kindergarten, I volunteered at their kindergarten pumpkin day. The teachers and parents led all kinds of math and science activities using real pumpkins. It is creative and fun and quintessentially kindergarten.
But the thing is…when my older two heard me bemoaning the absence of the pumpkin day, they had no idea what I was talking about. They don’t remember their pumpkin day!
It hit me that I have wasted an awful lot of 2020 lamenting the little things. The big things of 2020 deserve grief: the loss of lives, not seeing family, not going to church, the economy, the disproportionate burden all of these things on our lower income neighbors. But the little things? I can’t shed anymore tears over those.
November is a month dedicated to gratitude. Thanksgiving is perfectly situated before Christmas to protect us against the greed that so easily permeates our lives in December. Taking the time for gratitude creates contentment which shields us from misplaced desire, envy and greed.
But first: lament. Lamenting is an important step in the journey of gratitude, especially in a year like this. It’s ok to lament the small things like pumpkin days for a moment, but we shouldn’t give them more sadness than they are worth. Lamentation is the exfoliator of the soul—it’s rough and cleans out resentments that could get caught deep within us and fester. Lamenting clears the way for gratitude.
To get ready for Thanksgiving, I am literally writing down the small things (not the real actual sad things, but the pumpkin day-type things) that have made me sad about 2020. I will give them their last moment of lament, then I’m crumpling up the list and throwing it away. It’s an act of pruning the vines that aren’t producing fruit, of letting the chaff blow away in the wind.
Once those things are gone with the wind (or the recycling bin), my heart will be more ready to receive the gifts that Christmas-time brings, which for me is the actual presence of a God who wants to be with us.
Whatever the holiday season brings for you, make room in your heart for it this month by lamenting the little things for only a moment and then spending time with gratitude. 2020 has taken so much from us. Don’t let it take your ability to give thanks and celebrate what we do have.
I thought the kindergarten pumpkin day was important. Turns out, I’m wrong. What my two older daughters remember from kindergarten wasn’t pumpkin day at all. They remember their loving teacher, who taught them to sound out their words by stretching out a slinky. My now-kindergartner just found a slinky last week and was so excited to be able to stretch out her words with it. The important things stick.