For many years growing up, Thanksgiving was the beginning of a tradition that is indelibly marked in my memory…hunting season. The “hunters” would arrive the weekend after Thanksgiving. They were a couple of affable folks who had been coming to our area of Western Pennsylvania for many years, and had settled in with us in a comfortable routine. When I was little, I would help my mom make and decorate sugar cookies, while they scoured the woods for an unlucky buck.
When I came of age, I was taught how to handle a firearm–”Keep that barrel down,” and “Son, it only takes one time, one mistake,” my dad would instruct me. I was pretty good when we “shot mark” in the field, and so I eagerly anticipated my first season of hunting. The first day arrived and the wind was blistering and fierce, but I braved the cold like the true man I thought I was. So it was quite a disappointment when none of us saw anything that day or season at all; everyone went home empty-handed with no venison for their tables. The second year, I tried it again, except this time, my dad didn’t go with me; he had decided that I had it figured out. Alas, when I finally saw my first buck, no more than 30 yards away, I came down with a serious case of buck fever. I didn’t know what to do, and I swear the buck nodded at me, winked, and strolled away while I watched in consternation. It’s a feeling I will never forget.
You may think I have a big life lesson coming out of this story but I don’t; it’s just a story, one of the many that makes up my life. As I was reminded of it this week, it occurred to me that all of us are made up of these kinds of stories: some were instrumental in shaping our lives and others, like my deer story, are just memories that make me smile. But collectively, they form a big piece of who we are. It is “just stories” like these that give contours to our understanding of one another. And sharing them around the Thanksgiving table is beautiful.
So, as you celebrate family and friends this Thanksgiving season, remember the stories that make up your life. Share them with one another. And as you laugh, or cry, or just listen to another re-telling of your uncle’s “lost buck” story, let’s thank God that He has granted us eternal life through His Son – where death is never the end of our stories, only a passing moment in time.