They say everyone in retirement needs a hobby or a vocation. Some fellows play a lot of golf. Others travel, garden or volunteer. Me? I took another job as associate professor of Operations Management at North Park University. Being a full-time faculty member at a university was always a dream. In this case, it is a dream come true. It is the best job I have ever had. In the spirit of the holiday in which I am writing this, I am very thankful for this.
North Park University is a small liberal arts university in the North Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The school was founded by the Swedish Covenant Church (now the Evangelical Covenant Church) in 1891. For most of the twentieth century, the North Park neighborhood was basically a Swedish Watertown. Most of the residents were immigrants or of Swedish heritage. There were shops and restaurants catering to the community. The community grew and thrived around North Park University and the North Park Covenant Church.
Because of the Christian nature of the University, we begin meetings and meals with a reflection and a prayer. We call them devotions, and every school and department prepares schedules at the beginning of the academic year of who will be presenting the devotions for each meeting. In the November meeting of the School of Business and Nonprofit Management, I was up for devotions.
I was looking forward to it because as it was November, the ideal and most appropriate theme was Thanksgiving. I immediately knew what the reflection part of my devotion was going to be, but I always struggle with the prayer part. I sought the Armenian church, and I would have loved to find an appropriate prayer from, say, Gregory of Narek.
So, I did what many of us would do. I googled “Armenian Thanksgiving Prayer.” First up on the list was “An Armenian Thanksgiving Prayer” from the Armenian Weekly published on November 19, 2010. I thought, “how cool is this.” I clicked on it and was delighted and surprised to see it was written by none other than Tom Vartabedian. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was exactly the kind of thing Tom would have written.
I did not recall seeing this article before. Maybe I read it and forgot. Most likely, I had not read it. It didn’t matter because I read it that day and was so impressed and touched by the sentiments so beautifully expressed by Tom. His first paragraph was all I needed to get me started on writing my prayer.
I am writing this article because I would like everyone to read Tom’s Thanksgiving prayer again or for the first time. Eleven years later, it still resonates, perhaps even more so now as we still struggle to deal with the reality of losing Armenian land after last year’s horrible war. Tom’s prayer is what we need to read, to take to heart, and act to revitalize and reaffirm being Armenian however we can.
Reading his exquisitely written prayer made me think about what a wonderful man Tom was. He was a good Armenian. He loved his people and encouraged everyone from athlete to politician, writer to photographer, and cleric to volunteer to be the best they could be and… the best Armenian they could be. This Armenian Thanksgiving prayer is pure Tom.
I hope during this Thanksgiving holiday that you take some time to read and reflect on Tom’s prayer. Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.