By Norris Burkes Nov 25, 2018

Smoke fills the skies near my Auburn, Calif., home. I tried to escape its choking fog by driving halfway down the California coast last weekend, but the smoke followed me the 200-mile distance.

The apocalyptic size of this disaster has given my neighbors and me quite a unique perspective during this Thanksgiving and holiday season, and well it should. It’s made us ever more grateful for our homes and the well-being of our families.

Perspective is an important element of giving thanks, however I must confess that it’s one often misused by clergy, or even columnists, who tritely remind us to remember those less fortunate. Their motive is to insist you see how your life is not as bad as it could be.

Their approach comes off sounding a lot like parents trying to get their kids to eat turnips. “At least we have turnips and broccoli on our table,” goes the paternal reasoning, “I’ll bet the kids in Godawfulstan wish they had turnips.” This line of reasoning never did much for me.

The problem with that perspective is that thankfulness cannot be about comparing your good fortune to the misfortunes of others. Thanksgiving, and the rest of the holiday season, shouldn’t only be about gratitude that your home didn’t burn in the California fires but about extending a hand to help those who did lose their homes.

It isn’t just about being grateful you aren’t poor. It is also about being grateful you have resources to give the poor.

It is not only about being grateful you aren’t hungry. It must also be about sharing your gratitude with the hungry.

It is not about comparing what you have with what others do not have. It is not about being glad you’re not living in a cardboard shanty beneath the freeway overpass. It’s about the hand we give the homeless as we humbly acknowledge that most of us live just one paycheck away from building our own shack.It is not always about giving thanks for what you have, where you work, where you live or even who you are. In fact, it’s not about you at all.

The season is about keeping perspective between recognizing the blessings we’ve received and utilizing our capacity to extend those blessings to others.

At the end of the day, this perspective should be a constant reminder that we are not alone on this planet. It is this perspective that teaches us we’ve all journeyed from the same dusty place and, as Scripture suggests, “to dust we will return.”

That is the perspective from which humility comes, and humility will always be about thankfulness.

Editor’s note: My home sits in a fragile forest area about 100 miles from Paradise, California, where more than 12,000 homes were consumed this month in the Camp Fire. My pastor, Mike Bivins, heads Disaster Relief Ministry for the California Baptist Convention. If you wish to donate, I assure you that 100 percent of your donations will go to fire victims.

Visit, scroll down to bottom of page to donate.

Or write checks to: “Disaster Relief Ministry,” California Southern Baptist Convention, 678 East Shaw Ave., Fresno, CA 93710.

Reach Norris Burkes through email at, by phone 843-608-9715 or on Twitter @chaplain.