A not so secret ingredient

  • Published
  • By Chaplain, Capt. Jonathan Lampley
  • 355th Wing

It’s thanksgiving.  The table is set, everyone has arrived, and you start digging in to your favorite yearly delicacies. You fill a plate with all the fixings, but there’s one dish in particular you scoop with anticipation. Biting into what you think is your grandmother’s famous homemade casserole you quickly deduce a problem. It tastes different. Something seems to be missing. You can’t put a finger on the answer, but you know with absolute certainty what you tasted is not the casserole you grew up on.

After some investigation, you find out a distant cousin wanted to try cooking the famous dish. Your conclusion: the attempt is an utter failure. Finally, after a few jokes are made on the cousin’s poor attempt, grandma leans over and mentions how she missed the secret ingredient. The dish needs only a pinch, she says, and nothing more. However, that little bit of spice is just enough to spread through and enhance the combination of flavors to create perfection.


Life can sometimes feel like that disappointing casserole. On the outside we appear perfectly normal with seasons of success, happiness, good friendships and strengthening families. We label it a win if the paycheck keeps coming and the supervisor seems happy. Even if things aren’t going so well, we put on a smile and try to “fake it till we make it”. Just by looking, people wouldn’t know any different. However, we know down deep in our hearts something is missing.

Maybe we should take a lesson from grandma and take just a pinch of the secret ingredient to life. No, it’s not a spice or more success or another promotion: it’s thanksgiving. It’s the ability to intentionally focus on the people or things that give us meaning and hope. Maybe we find hope in our religious faith or family heritage. Maybe seeing our children improve in school or finally receiving the quarterly award reminds us that hard work does pay off. Whether big or small, everyone has something to be thankful for. 

When we focus on the blessings in life, our perspective changes. Regardless of the season we find ourselves in, facing challenging times or living through the most difficult day, we find a hope to hold on to like an anchor. That in turn affects our attitude, which eventually spills over to our actions. We end up a stronger, more resilient, and more capable people. Little did we know how much could be changed from such a little thing called thanksgiving. Maybe grandma knew about more than just casseroles.