Wishing all my friends in the US a Happy Thanksgiving!
So what do expats do in Panama when folks back home are giving thanks? Well, some of the restaurants that cater to US epats have special menus for Thanksgiving. Some friends get together and do the whole bit … turkey, crandberry sauce, the works. Others just treat it as another day in paradise.
It may be easier in Panama to focus on the real meaning of thanksgiving … and maybe easier to focus on thanks-living every day of the year that we are blessed to live in such warm and beautiful surroundings. US ways do have a way of creeping in. Panama actually has a Black Friday with lots of sales, even although we don’t have Thanksgiving. The first Sunday of December is a big, big holiday in Panama, Mother’s Day, celebrated much more seriously than in the US. And of course Christmas is coming … canned Christmas music has already made it’s appearance, and the local supermarket has imported real Christmas trees for $30, which will most likely have lost all their needles by Christmas Day.
I have a lot to be thankful for: a great family, health, living in paradise, still able to earn a few bucks working on luxury cruise ships sailing around the world, friends, and this year, thankful for something I’ve prayed for for 24 long years, that my friend Brandon Hein, sentenced originally for life in prison without possibility of parole for a crime nobody says he committed, has been approved for parole. Using California’s Felony Murder Rule eager prosecutors were able to charge him for murder when alll he did was to be at the wrong place, with the wrong friends, at the wrong time. Thankfully last year California abolished the Felony Murder Rule. By law all of those convictions, including Brandon’s, are being reviewed and either retried or reversed. But as that review process drags on, hopefully because of the Parole Board’s decision, in a few months Brandon will be released on Parole.
Thanksgiving Eve I’m having dinner with some expat friends, and Thanksgiving Day I will be extra nice to my dogs provided they stop digging up and rolling in my flower bed. Nikki is in Seattle and will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my daughter and her family, and my two grandsons for whom I am very thankful. The oldest, Rian, is 11, yet as tall as I am and wearing the same size shoes. He has never seen a sport he didn’t like or excell in, but unfortunately is spending this holiday on crutches. And the youngest, Caiden, is a brilliant and articulate kid who turns 7 this month and whose favorite subject is math.
Not to preach, but my message has always been, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and it’s a plan for your good.” And certainly that has been overwhelmingly true for me. The Bible says that God is a spirit and we must worship him in spsirit and in truth, so the older I’ve gotten, the less I want to see God squeezed into man-made boxes, and fought over. I realize in many ways the God I learned about growing up, in college and seminary, was, if I can borrow from J. B. Phillips, too small.