Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Giving Thanks


Today my daughters dragged me to church. I have religious beliefs, but they are private ones, and I don’t feel the need to worship communally. I also have a suspicion of organised religion that stems from the days when my family used to go to church with another family whose mother my father ran off with. That didn’t seem like very Christian behaviour to me. I’m also not keen on the concept of a Christian God who presides over a Christian Heaven to the exclusion of everyone else, and neither do I like being lectured to. However, D had received an invitation to an Erntedank or Harvest Festival service at the Evangelical church (that’s the Protestant one) here in the Burg and with, the fervour of a new schoolgoer, believed that it was compulsory not optional. L likes singing and “being in God’s house”, so we went, the two girls with joy in their hearts and mother sulkily kicking at lamp-posts along the way, saying “Do I have to go?” in a whiny voice.

Of course, when I got there, I enjoyed it. The reverend, or whatever Anglicans call their leaders, is young and kind of vibey and didn’t lecture. The church was filled with people I know. I sat next to a woman whose kid was in the same kindergarten class as L, and who has a voice like an angel, so I enjoyed listening to her sing. Since it was a children’s service, the hymns were easy and rousing, and although I didn’t know most of them, I managed to sing along. The church was prettily decorated with pumpkins, apples and other produce from neighbouring farms, and with bread baked by local bakers, while the sun streamed in through the stained-glass windows. Apart from the moment when D spoke loudly to me during a prayer, it was a pleasant hour and a half.

Later, I delivered D to a birthday party. All the attendees were little girls with whom she was first at kindergarten and with whom she has started the big adventure of school. We went to scout a local restaurant as a party venue for our fortieth at the end of the year, where the manageress is a friend of our babysitter. Later I went for a run, passing a family I know flying kites in a field, and towards the end, coming across the partygoers hunting for treasure at one of the playgrounds. After my shower I went to fetch her, but the party was running late, so I went upstairs to another friend for a cup of tea while we waited for it to come to an end. As D and I were trying to leave, the parents were flooding in to collect their kids and three of them stopped me to arrange play-dates.

Today in the church, we gave thanks for the harvest, for having enough food to eat, clothes to wear and roofs over our heads.

I also want to give thanks. I am grateful for community. However much I might see myself as a foreigner, alien to the Burg and various German habits that I find touchingly odd, it turns out I belong.

We have made friends, a place and a life for ourselves right here in this little Burg, and I give thanks for that. I am also grateful for my wider community in Germany, my community of expats and past and present work colleagues whose broad world-views I inhale eagerly. I am grateful for my friends and family around the globe, in South Africa, England, Dubai, the USA, Canada, Scotland and Ireland, who provide a backbone of support and the knowledge that while we may be far away, we are still loved. I am grateful for my online friends, some of whom I have already met and others whom I am about to meet, who are just as real and just as wonderful.

Today as we came away from the restaurant, L said, “You want to have a party for 120 people? You have a lot of friends.” I said to her, “Well, we are nearly 40, so we have had a long time to make friends. We have also lived in lots of countries, where we have met lots of people. And we like having friends.”

It’s true. I love my friends. Thanks to each and every one of you, near and far, who make my life so special.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

19 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. Your feelings about organized religion mirror my own very closely. I enjoyed reading this post very much, and it reminded me of how much I love to sing in church or out of it.

    We have been giving thanks for the bountiful harvest from our gardens and vines and gifts from friends. We are also giving thanks for our numerous friends.

  2. Rock on Charl. I loved the image of you kicking at lampposts. Who on earth did you learn that from..? And I agree wholeheartedly about the organised religion thing. But ultimately it is the good people that override the situation and make it all bearable if not downright fun, I suppose. And going to Church and praying is very similar to meditation I suppose, so we can enjoy that, metinks.. Sorry this is nothing near as eloquent as your post..

  3. The one thing that strikes me about church is that it seems so unfair you have to listen to a lecture that you can’t ask questions about afterwards. Boy oh boy, would I have one or two questions to ask, if they let me! But if you can come out of a service feeling uplifted and grateful, then i guess somone’s doing something right. I like the idea of religion, but I’ve never been able to get the intellectual part of my mind around it.

  4. Great post. And I can relate to the not wanting to go to church part. But I’m glad that you did since you got to see your daughters having a good time. That for me has always been the best part about church – being together with (generally) nice people and singing. The sermon tends to be a bit of a bore. I liked the giving thanks part as well – for friends, home, a rich life.

  5. Love you too honey

  6. I agree with you about church and having private beliefs that are more real to me – I have just started to get over the teenage rebellion about going to church occasionally though and like singing rousing hymns and joining in festivals too. We haven’t had a service that is as fun for the kids as yours sounds though, so they are the ones kicking the lamposts on the rare occasions they’ve been taken to church. They love singng Christmas carols though.

    I agree that the the best thing about church is the community aspect – it sounds like you have the best of small town living with that – something we miss out on, being out in the bundu. I’d love my kids to have that, as well as the space that we enjoy, but you can’t have everything I suppose! That’s another reason why I love the online community and friends I’ve met through blogging … you’re all the best!

  7. What an amazing sounding day! The ‘Burg’ sounds idyllic! This was so uplifting to read and is a reminder that it is important to look around you and be grateful for what one has no matter how small or how big!

  8. Thanks for the reminder about giving thanks. A colleague reminded my husband that life is not just about the big things, but it is the small detours and diversions that make it worthwhile.

  9. Lovely post. Your lampost-kicking made me smile.

  10. Oh, I wish I could come to a party at your house! That’s the only down side to online friendships for me–not really being in the moment with all my wonderful electronic friends. But I am very thankful for them, all the same.

    I know you’ve felt isolated, especially given the multiyear timeframe that is required before the burgfrauen will accept a foreigner, so I am very heartened to hear you feel at home and surrounded by friends and community.

  11. Oh Charlotte,
    Your post made me smile. I too have a princess that loves everything about our Catholic mass. I take her once a week. During a week day, never on Sunday. The weekday mass is much shorter 🙂

  12. Glad to hear your church experience was better than you expected. That can be so hit or miss, although I’ve discovered through a practice of attending many different churches over the years, that there are some truly great churches out there (especially in NYC) where all kinds of wonderful, open, embracing preaching is being done. I’m lucky, though, because “lecture” takes on a different meaning in our church, where it’s more like a university professor lecture, and I do get to talk back to and question the “professor” every single Sunday (am, in fact, implored for my thoughts and opinions). I have to admit that our lecturer is very, very good at keeping things interesting and making me think. He also loves feedback and dialogue from others. Of course, I’m biased, but it does seem that others feel the same way about him.

    And I’m very thankful for all my lovely friends, too, and that includes you. Looking forward to meeting you!

  13. The image of your little ones dragging you through the burg to church is priceless. Thanks for the lovely post, and most of all, thanks for being my friend.

  14. Thanks be to you. I love you too Charlotte.

    I love singing hymns. In fact, I love dancing and singing, but not nearly as much as I love you.

  15. I enjoyed reading this. For me, religion is nothing more than a male power thing. Period. I loved D’s disturbance during prayer. When Brett was four, we took him to the 20th Century in Jhb. There was a Pooh Bear short, where Pooh guts’s all of Rabbit’s honey and can’t get out of his burrow because his stomach is too fat.

    Brett was so incensed, he stood up on his seat, leaned on the back of the seat in front and shouted at the screen, Oh Pooh Bear, you done got stuck. The whole 20th Century started laughing and I didn’t know which way to look. Good for you D. You set the cat among the pigeons, my girl. I’m with you little guys all the way.

  16. I’m another who shares your view of organized religion; happy that this experience was lovely for you, though. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post and reminding us just how important friends are, no matter how, when, or where we made them 🙂

  17. There seem to be a lot of us out there with similar views towards organized religion. It’s nice to hear about all the friends you’ve made here in Germany and in your Burg. We’re approaching the time limit needed to make friends in our Dorf. 22 months in and we just had dinner with our landlord/neighbors. Woohoo!

  18. Kicking lampposts – I’m more into hitting doors or walls with the heel of my hand. Acquired many an injury this way at varsity. D’oh.

    ANd I share your views on organised religion, despite my deep love for hymns and singing them, but that’s not to say that I am irreligious. I find myself more and more often offering up quick prayers of thanks, or reminding myself how incredibly blessed Nick and I are to be healthy, employed, living in a foreign country where we have made friends and a good life, able to travel extravagantly etc etc etc. And I am eternally grateful for all my off-line and on-line friends – like you!

  19. As you know we just had our Thanksgiving here, which is traditionally the end of harvest season in Canada. so it’s always been a time of gathering with family, and friends, and saying thanks for all the bounty in life. It’s also part of the ‘living mindfully’ movement that is small, but something I keep coming across. We have so much, really. Thank you for writing a post that makes us all stop and say thanks for what we have in life! for sharing that! And – I too am like you, my religious beliefs are private ,and completely non-traditional, so I’d be kicking and whining all the way to church too!!
    and thank you, too, for being a great blogging friend, too.

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