“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom
as an excuse to do evil.
Live as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:16
The terrorist attacks of late remind me of another Thanksgiving, years ago, when evil turned the world upside-down:
I climbed out of bed that morning, November 24, 1963, savoring the steamy aroma of a fat, stuffed turkey roasting in the oven. As I stumbled into the kitchen rubbing the sleep from my eyes, Mom made cranberry sauce and Dad sharpened the knife he used to carve our Thanksgiving turkey. Their attention focused on a small, portable, black-and-white television set its “rabbit ears” antenna tilted toward the steam-fogged kitchen windows. On the screen a fuzzy image of Walter Cronkite re-told the events since President Kennedy’s assassination two days before.
On that Sunday morning, instead of going to church we had stayed home to prepare our Thanksgiving meal, four days early because my grandmother would be traveling to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with my aunt’s family.
No one felt like celebrating. Our president was dead, murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald. Shots from a window in a schoolbook depository had transformed our lives into a tangled mass of confusion and fear. My ten-year-old mind struggled to understand why anyone would want to kill the president. The whole world, it seemed, was out of control. Feelings had shifted from anger and disbelief to a stark, quiet numbness. Kennedy was dead. No one could do anything to turn back time and make things right.
We were about to sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner when Mom called from the kitchen. “Come here. They’re showing Oswald!”
We gathered around the TV for our first look at the monster who had killed Kennedy. There he was, handcuffed and looking surprisingly clean-cut wearing dark corduroy slacks and a pullover sweater. He walked swiftly and with a sense of arrogance through the basement corridor of the Dallas Police Department toward a car waiting to take him to the county jail. Then, as we watched, a man wearing a suit and fedora lunged forward and shot Oswald, point blank, in his stomach.
“Mercy!” Grandma said.
We had just witnessed a murder, and although no one felt merciful toward Oswald, we were shocked. Stunned.
“Enough,” said Mom, turning off the television. “It’s Thanksgiving.”
We sat at the dinner table, joined hands, and prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings, your faithfulness, and your never-ending love . . .”
And that is what many Americans will do this Thanksgiving. They will turn off the news reports and remember that unlike God’s love, evil will not last forever.
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