I see him through the kitchen window on Tuesday at twenty-three minutes past nine, later than usual. He’s clanging open the mailbox at the end of the lane, jarring off its blanket of snow. I watch.
But he’s paused. The naked branches of the sumac finger across the window, but if I arch on tiptoes – isn’t he laying envelopes, flyers into that steely cold dark?
He’s heading to the door.
The dog barks and the kids dash to greet mailman first and I run fingers through hair and the back doorbell chimes.
“Sorry, Mrs. Voskamp,” he’s reaching through a tribe of kids with a handful of mail. “But we didn’t see any address on this letter. Without an address, we can’t recognize it as post. It’s undeliverable.”
I take the offered stack, glance at envelope on top. A celebratory card I’d slipped in the mailbox to be sent to my grandmother stares blankly back at me.
I hadn’t written any address on it.
Winter gusts in and my cheeks ignite.
“Oh, I’m the one who’s sorry.” Why do I laugh with such a pitch when I’m on fire?
“If I’d written a recognizable address on it, it would have been a good idea, yes?”
A friendly nod and he’s gone back through the snow to his pick-up, the children calling, waving, bye after him, dog wagging tail, me just smoldering.
The envelope lies on the mudroom sideboard all day.
I walk by it several times.
I check it every time: No, I really didn’t address it.
The letter lies there undelivered. Like generic thanks, acknowledging no one in particular. Like generic, unaddressed thanks, returned to sender.
I pause once, finger its edge. Granny never received our heart on paper.
Yes, that too: if gratitude is sensed only as a global, vague feeling, addressed to no one in particular, it’s as good as not sent. Non-existent.
Like setting a table with a turkey, but not having time to intentionally offer God specific, detailed, humble thanks for all His goodness. (Can He give anything else, really?)
Like a letter, gratitude needs a name. (Who do atheists thank? Don’t our thank you notes needs to be rightly addressed to a Recipient?)
Like a letter, gratitude requires specificity. (Did God give superficially? Why then is our gratitude hurried, sweeping, general? Don’t our thank you notes needs to be thoughtfully detailed? The more considered and detailed, the more genuine our thanks truly is.)
Like a letter, gratitude necessitates careful attentiveness. (How can we be grateful if we’re unaware of the heartslide of gifts He deluges us with? One can’t be both harried and grateful. Don’t our thank you notes require us to intentionally slow down and wake up, become aware and genuinely see?)
The sumac’s shrouded in a dark November night before I take out the address book, scrawl Granny’s address across that expanse of white heart-wrapped envelope. It’ll get there now. It only took a minute.
Yet authentic Thanksgiving is more than a moment, a turkey, a day.
It’s the expanse of a whole life addressed to God.
Because we want our hearts to get there.
Lord God, cause me to give thanks to You. To give thanks to You by thoughtfully detailing the intimacies of the gifts. To give thanks to You by slowing down and attending to the gifts. Cause me to give thanks to You not simply with a turkey and an episode.
But with my heart and a lifestyle.
Related: A Word to Live By
(This post is the “pie” I’m taking over to Seedlings in Stone and L.L.’s grand Thanksgiving Celebration — you’re invited too! She’s got the cider on… care to join the feast of posts? See you over there….)
Photos: Granny’s letter returned