My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine. Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois. Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois. Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives. While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception. Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.
Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event. Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father. Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family. Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater. However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life. While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another, I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone. Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.
As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night. Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life. As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week. Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events. I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did. My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient. Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability. Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment. I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.
by Jay Mankus