As a child, our family’s yearly Thanksgiving meals took place in Manning, SC — population 3000, complete with the Manning Cafe, McCabe’s Barbecue, Brogdon’s Store, and a public library built in 1910. Manning was built near the headwaters of Wyboo Creek in South Carolina lake country, and home to the annual Striped Bass Festival. Manning hosted our entire family for the Thanksgiving meal — and I grew up in a very large family.
My mother was one of nine children, and my 20 cousins, 16 aunts and uncles, various other family friends, and of course my brothers and I would show up for the feast, all sitting at different-sized tables spread throughout my aunt’s home. As one grew older, one could be graduated to the Big Table, the table where all the Grown People — the adults — sat for the Thanksgiving feast, conversing about wise things, and catching up on all the family stories and news.
The funny thing is that, though I inevitably grew older, I never grew old enough to have a seat at the Big Table. I was one of the youngest, and there was always too little room, and too many family members for the limited seats at the main table.
Of course, you can never have too many family members. Not really. And my cousins and I had our own fun, and probably got away with more mischief since we weren’t under the eye of the adults. And family meals always prepare you for taking your seat at the Big Table, in time.
Today, in many ways and in a variety of contexts, I am finally sitting at the Big Table and I’ve received more than I ever dreamed I would. Perhaps a part of growing older is realizing how much you have been given, and how unexpectedly it has been provided.
This week will be filled with abundance. The Wednesday before this Thanksgiving’s feast, I will be engaging in one of my favorite past-times — cooking. Later on I’ll head out to where some family members have been gathering together, preparing for the big meal and enjoying the outdoors.
Cooking and the outdoors pale in significance to the family and friends I’ve been given, both the old friends who have been with me for a lifetime, and the new ones who have traveled a shorter journey with me.
I am thankful for my health. I don’t take it for granted — so many are not given such a blessing, and I’m conscious of it more every year.
I have experienced a relentless pace of blessings over the years and I am grateful.
Those blessings in my personal life have clearly been a part of allowing me to have blessings in other areas, the biggest part of which has been my work. The most obvious place where I’ve taken a seat at the Big Table is at Elliott Davis — truly a grand and spectacular feast of people, some 750 and more, spread through nine offices in nine communities, all of them different, but in some ways, just like Manning. Each of our communities has its cafes and barbecue places, its historic library, its particular geographic setting that shaped its formation, its big annual celebrations to recognize what is near and dear to each of them. It is a very big table — and Elliott Davis employees, including me, all get to have a seat at that table.
For all of this and more, I am truly grateful.
But I’m also grateful for this insight, one that applies to our workplaces, our families, our hobbies, our communities: it’s not so much where you sit at the table but with whom you are enjoying the meal.
Yes, there are many people at the table, and it is large and grand, and there will always be room for others. It is the company we keep that is the real blessing.