by Reverend Mark Hummell, Chaplain
“Almighty and gracious God, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your name.” Collect for Thanksgiving Day from the Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
Maybe it’s because I am the chaplain, but I believe that rituals are an important part of our lives. And these are not just the rituals one would see in chapel or religious services, but proud families who post their children’s first day of school photos on social media, proms, graduations, bachelor or bachelorette parties, honeymoons, retirement parties, memorial concerts, are all ritual events that capture the passage of key moments in our lives, and help us to honor our time with one another.
Thanksgiving is basically a ritual that brings us together with family and friends to share a meal and to give thanks for what we have. For Thanksgiving 2021 at Grace I, and the students I see walking the halls, are thankful to be together with other teachers, staff and students. Last year at this time we did not have a COVID vaccine for anyone. We were meeting in hybrid A and B models where we basically split in half because not all of us could be in the same building. We were eating in pods, or small groupings usually separated by advisories, homerooms or grades.
This year, those in our community ages 12 and older are vaccinated, and some of us have even started receiving booster shots. More recently, children ages 5-11 have started becoming vaccinated. All of this wonderful progress with vaccines offers us the blessings of being fully together as a community in school. It has also meant that lunch and snack times have become a bit more normal.
Eating a meal together is the key ritual of Thanksgiving. Sure, we have the Macy’s Day Parade which many of us watch on television, and the Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving, but what is this special day unless we have a meal together? Breaking bread together is symbolic in major faith traditions. Whether it is Christians celebrating communion, Jews celebrating the Passover meal or Muslims with the Iftar meal in the evening to break the fast during the days of Ramadan, sharing a meal is a sacred ritual for many.
In addition to meals, our students have also developed some creative ways of coming together and representing the season. Two students in the High School, Bella J. ‘22 and Bella G. ‘23, created The Mental Wellness Affinity Space for students to focus on wellness during this unusual time in all of our lives with the pandemic, as well as the various issues that students face on a daily basis. In light of Thanksgiving and the expression of gratitude being spotlighted around the holiday, they thought it would be a great time to start a Gratitude Board Project (pictured)! For this project, they have created a board filled with post-its that students can write on to compliment and/or express gratitude for a person or thing specifically within the Grace community.
Within just a few days, the board is pretty full. Some of the notes include thank you’s to teachers: “Thank you Ms. Pommiss for the Dance Assembly!,” “I am so thankful for Mr. Persaud. He is such a selfless, kind and understanding teacher…,” “Mr. Root is awesome!!!,” and many more. And, they also are grateful for food, “Thank you for bringing back the panini press.”
As we gather together this Thanksgiving, let us recall what we are thankful for, what gratitude we have this season. How our lives in times of challenge can bring out the best in us.
In conclusion, I offer this Thanksgiving Grace from Daniel Roselle:
This is a day for thanks.
A day in which we
see or hear or feel
the wonders of the other
moments of the year.
This is a day for time.
A day in which we
think of pasts that make
our present rich
and future bountiful.
This is a day for joy.
A day in which we share a gift of laughter
warm and gentle
as a smile.
Above all, this is a day for peace.
So let us
touch each other
and know that
We are one.
For these and other blessings,
we thank Thee, God. Amen.