“What Thanksgiving message do you have this year? What do you feel blessed about?” Barbara (my case manager) asked yesterday. 

To be truthful, I had a hard time responding, so I copped out with, “I survived.” Yeah, sure, it’s true, I survived, but was I genuinely thankful for it? Of course, I knew that Barbara knew I struggled to find something positive. I wasn’t ready for the question. I searched my list of quick, snappy comebacks, and nothing fit. I knew how I felt. And the best line I can grasp at this moment comes from the 1994 film Wyatt Earp where Doc Holiday exclaims, “… I wake up every day looking at death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad.” If any statement honed in on my thoughts, that would be it. Still, I kept thinking there has to be a better response than ‘Gee, death looks better.’

This morning I stumbled upon Ryan D’Agostino’s Esquire piece, Keanu Reeves Knows the Secrets of the Universe. Of Keanu Reeves, Carrie Ann Moss said, “He trains harder, works harder, cares more, always asks more and more questions to understand the depth of what we’re doing. And while he was doing all of that for himself, he always had an eye out for me.” So if there’s ever a good message for Thanksgiving, it would be ‘had an eye out for me.’ Even in my world, where the lower back and neck have caused unnecessary problems with standing, sitting, and walking these past several weeks, ‘keeping an out for someone else’ is the Thanksgiving message. 

When I lived in Long Beach, CA, I wandered off to the beaches at night. There, in the early evening hours, just after sunset, the North Star and the Big Dipper would often be my sole companions. Yet, the shoreline was never the same. In an ever-changing world, the ocean created a familiar, unfamiliar part of my world each night. I would peer into the rich, the wealthy, and the poor and envision how I could change their world, how I could ‘keep an eye out for someone else.’ In those days, I wasn’t nearly as lost as I am today.

I think I had more purpose then. As a young thirty-year-old, I had experienced much. Having been to and lived in several other countries, I could quickly adapt. Entering a foreign city, I could easily watch people for a day and then promptly navigate local customs. But, except for Soweto, South Africa, I don’t believe I stood out from others. The message of those days would remain ever-present today. “Stay in the present,” a coworker once said in Santiago, Chile. “Stay in the present.”

Thus, I circle back to Thanksgiving 2021. The message has to be that I am thankful that from February 2020 and onward, I was ‘keeping an eye out for someone else.’ COVID-19 swallowed the world these past 20 months. And part of me believes we’ve forgotten to grieve. I keep thinking that if we could ‘grieve’ just a tenth of that of God, the depth of love we could have would be 100 times more than anything we’ve experienced. Therefore, as a result, what I endure now is not about me. It’s about being there for everyone else, even during those days when I feel as though death is staring me in the face. There’s no ceiling on what we can do for another.

It’s easy to view ourselves as saviors. Heck, as most kids can attest, being a fireman, policeman, nurse, or doctor is stolen from the best television shows. I became a rescueman due to the television show ‘Emergency.’ However, what my travels taught was that if we are to model Jesus authentically, everyone else in the room is just as important as us. Positioning ourselves in such a manner, we force ourselves to leave any personal agendas at the door and focus on the people we serve. 

Keeping an eye out for someone else means opening ourselves up to a world of needs. It’s more than throwing $5.00 into the Salvation Army Kettle at Christmas or that weekly offering at church. We must serve in ways that stretch beyond where we see ourselves. But the act of Keeping an eye out might not always require significant, dramatic action. It might be helping that elderly neighbor homeowner who needs his lawn cut. It might mean sharing a cup of coffee or even a slice of pizza. It might mean playing chess with an older man in a nursing home. 

Thanksgiving 2021 is about embracing both human and divine mystery. God wants us to keep an eye out for others. COVID-19 has affirmed (at least in me) that when we lose people in life, we are reminded life is short. Authentic Christ-like living is not about throwing our fists at flight attendants or demanding something that jeopardizes another. Thanksgiving is about love. Plain and simple. It’s about others, not you.