If the only prayer you said in your whole life was "thank you", that would suffice. (Meister Eckhart)

A few evenings ago I enjoyed my first-ever Thanksgiving, courtesy of the American students in our house. In previous years our one or two American residents have feasted with their American friends, but - to general delight - this year's larger than usual intake felt that such a family event could only be celebrated with their big new "family" here at the house, plus some special guests.

The event itself was preceded by masses of hard work: planning, creativity, ingenuity, the finding and buying of ingredients and materials, followed by a three-day cook-in, which gained intensity the closer we got to the evening itself. As it happened, one American student's father had already booked to come to Oxford that week on business; he arrived, his suitcase bulging with supplies, and provided kitchen back-up as the heat rose. In the event, 38 of us sat down at beautifully laid tables to a sumptuous feast, with just about everything that could ever go into a Thanksgiving meal! The food was delicious, not only because it had been excellently cooked, but mainly because of the love, care and attention that had been poured, stirred and baked into it by our three cooks.

The meal, though, was not the sum total of the evening - it had been preceded by "cultural activities", in which, hands smudged with felt tip pens, we gleefully drew improbable turkeys with varying degrees of artistry and artistic licence. We were also invited to express our thankfulness, on a large, general canvas and on mini canvases, which we could personalise and keep. It was a lovely opportunity to pause and reflect, and consider - for what am I especially thankful? Some of the small canvases glowed with colour and creativity, expressing the exuberance - as well as the seriousness - of the exercise. The large canvas now hangs on a wall, a simple, colourful testament to the gratitude which burst forth that evening, for so many blessings from so many sources.

My small canvas is in my room. It contains just a few words, but within each word is a vastness: Being called to be here... the Society... those I love... creativity... the Heart of Jesus.

That is all... that is everything.


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