As a child growing up in Timonium, chicken was my family’s fowl-du-jour for Thanksgiving. My parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from The Philippines in the 1960’s, each with a suitcase in one hand and big hopes and dreams in the other, were not familiar with turkey. And so a baked chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper and a few dashes of paprika, was our family’s simple Filipino-American Thanksgiving meal for several years, with steamed rice, vegetables, and “bibingka” for dessert (sweet rice cake made with coconut and milk), until my sister and I were older.
Sitting at Thanksgiving dinner eating our chicken and rice, my mother used to tell us how her father, a high school principal in Ballesteros, a small town on the northern coast of the northernmost Philippine island of Luzon, was not pleased when he learned she wished to emigrate. Understandably, neither he nor my grandmother wished for their only daughter to live halfway across the world from them. It was my mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Pons, who became her greatest cheerleader and advocate, giving her emotional and financial support so she could achieve her dream.
Last Sunday in church, Caroline began her sermon on faithful discipleship and risk-taking by recounting the story of the 102 courageous souls who boarded The Mayflower in 1620 and set sail from Plymouth, England, for a new life across the Atlantic. Since then I have been thinking of the countless trans-Atlantic and other voyages taken by courageous souls over the centuries and recent decades — both the voyages freely chosen, and the ones enforced, against people’s will — that have shaped the full, ongoing narrative of our country.
And I have been reflecting on our country’s narrative in the light of this coming Sunday’s “Feast of Christ the King”, when we are given the chance once again to reflect on and imagine “Christ’s reign”: a reality where the outcast and the established, the saint and the sinner, the stranger and the beloved-known, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, regardless of race or class or politics or religion or whatever-barriers-we-humans-place-between-one-another, coexist in life-giving relationship with each other, as human travelers on one sacred, earthly voyage together.
We are still en route to this glorious vision, and we each have our oar to pull, our piece of the narrative to write. This voyage takes all the courage and the will, all the resources and all the heart, we have to give it. As we celebrate our great American feast of Thanksgiving, a feast that is universal at its core, let us give thanks for the blessings of our lives, including the chance to be on this voyage, traveling en route together.