As I prepare for Thanksgiving and reflect on the latest news about refugees, immigration, and border patrols, I’m also reminiscing about giving the invocation and benediction at a naturalization ceremony. Before the ceremony, the guest speaker, a naturalized citizen who was an engineer, shared his story with me.
As a child in India, he lived in a dirty village in a tiny house without any amenities, including clean drinking water. He loved to read, though books, a luxury more valuable than gold, were scarce. He said he knew that one day he would come to America, a land of opportunity, flowing with milk and honey, though he didn’t know how. Even then, he loved the idea of Thanksgiving, a day to feast on all his blessings. His childhood faith astounded me, much more hopeful than mine at that age, and I had plenty of clean water and shelves of books.
As I stepped forward to deliver the invocation, I looked into the crowd. Forty-one candidates for citizenship, all beautiful, beloved creations of God looked back at me. I acknowledged these divine expressions and greeted them as if they were my congregation: “Namaste. The Spirit in me welcomes, honors, embraces and truly rejoices in the Spirit in you.”
I could only imagine their life journeys to reach that day. Yet, I still felt our connection, as if we were united for a sacred purpose. I remembered my own family’s stories. Three of my four grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and numerous cousins also left other homelands, and became U.S. citizens. They, too, had dreamt of new lives, faithful despite an unknown future.
After the ceremony, one of the new citizens thanked me in carefully spoken English for my prayers. I offered my congratulations. She beamed and shook my hand. “So thankful,” she said. “So thankful.”
Wherever we are this Thanksgiving weekend, whether we listen or not, we’re surround by a chorus of grateful stories: mine, our relatives’, the engineer’s, other naturalized citizens’, and all those awaiting a new homeland. However we’re willing to hear them, they speak similar truths: As divine children of God, each of us desires safety, security, freedom, comfort, and peace of mind. We seek a better life for ourselves and our loved ones. We want a place we call home, where we can savor all our blessings.
No matter who we are, who we love, where we’ve been, how we look, or what’ve done before, we can hold dearly, sometimes cling tightly, to the faith that leads us forward in courage and guides our steps in grace. For every story and for all those who’ve paved a path for us, let us celebrate that kind of faith. Especially, let us be thankful for all we are now and all we’re still becoming.
Happy Thanksgiving, Blessed Readers. Namaste.
© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.