One of the reasons I have come to like Thanksgiving Day more through the years is my increasing enjoyment of the radio program “Giving Thanks.” The program is expertly hosted by John Birge and can be heard on public radio stations around the country every Thanksgiving (check your local listings). Each year the broadcast follows the same simple format: reflections on, as the program is subtitled, “fall, food, and gratitude” by noted authors and poets, interspersed with delightfully rich seasonal music, both choral and instrumental. Previous guests have included poet Rita Dove, Rabbi Harold Kushner, and writer and food critic Calvin Trillin, who presented his case why spaghetti carbonara, instead of turkey, really should be our official meal at Thanksgiving.
However, my favorite part of the broadcast, a segment repeated every year, features a recording of actor Charles Laughton narrating the experience of his first trip to Chartres cathedral as a young man, followed by a return visit many years later. The two visits are connected by an encounter, each time, with the same local guide, who, Laughton came to realize, had had a profound influence on him, extending far beyond their first meeting of only a few hours. The dramatic rise and fall of Laughton’s voice, his theatrically trained narrative skill as he tells his story, is a pure delight. For me, it isn’t Thanksgiving without listening to a least a portion of this exquisite program. Busy on Thanksgiving? Here’s an additional something to be thankful for, the program is archived on the American Public Media website. Happy Thanksgiving!