Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for living signposts

“E pluribus unum”- out of many, one (the motto of the US).

“Devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People,” and to “promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race.” -Ben Franklin (His last public act was to send Congress this petition asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. Feb 3, 1790)

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving cartoon

George Washington was the first to call for a national “public thanksgiving and prayer”, but each state celebrated this holiday at various times. In September of 1863, in the midst of our Civil War, Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote to President Lincoln urging him to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday to unite the country. Lincoln listened and by October, issued a proclamation that set aside the last Thursday of every November as “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

This week, Julia and I drove out to Iowa from New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with her mom and family. On the way, we listened to episodes of a podcast called On Being with Krista Tippet. People have been trying to get us to listen to this podcast for a long time. I bring up the show because as we strive to avoid talking about politics around the family table today, it is important to explore within ourselves the roots of why our communication has broken down.

ON Being

To explore what has divided us in the hopes of uniting us, I will share some quotes and thoughts from two of the On Being Podcasts we listened to. 

Vincent Harding

Vincent Harding was a leading figure in the civil rights movement as well a close friend and occasional speech writer for Martin Luther King Jr. He said that “the phrase “civil rights” never adequately described King’s vision or the human transformation that it stirred.’ The movement, he reminded us, “was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired in biblical words to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.”  The question for us now, is “how to carry on democratic conversation that in a sense invites us to hear each other’s best arguments and best contributions so that we can then figure out how do we put these things together to create a more perfect union. To develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How —to go back to our conversation —how do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?”

Isabel Wilkerson

Author Isabel Wilkerson, reminds us that that there were 246 years of enslavement here in America, that is 12 generations of enslavement. “You think about those cotton fields, and those rice plantations, and those tobacco fields, and on all of those cotton fields, and tobacco plantations, and rice plantations were opera singers, and jazz musicians, and poets, and professors, defense attorneys, doctors — I mean, that’s — this is the manifestation of the desire to be free and what was lost to the country…we’re so very divided, and there’s such a focus on “other.” And “other” can mean all kinds of things. And so people will often say, “Why is it that those people do that thing?” The only answer to that question is, “Why do human beings do what they do when they’re in that situation?” And it calls for radical empathy in order to put ourselves inside the experiences of another and to allow ourselves the pain, allow ourselves the heartbreak…”

People’s concerns go beyond the economy now. When the chief political strategist for the White House is a member of a white supremacy group, and when CNN broadcasts the question posted by a member of the alt-right asking ‘If Jews are people…”, we have to wonder what Benjamin Franklin would think of his beloved America? We short change ourselves when we try to suppress our diversity.  “By the people, for the people,” is the America I hold in my heart.

Vincent Harding suggested that when we find we are “operating in a situation,” that is, “very, very dark all around,” what we need are “some signposts, some lights that would in other peoples’ lives help them …Live human signposts.”

Fortunately there are many  signposts for us.  We can also rise above our differences to shine out for one another as we gather round a table of gratitude for what we have and what we can share. As a beloved community, we can be a light to the world. 

I am Thankful for you!

Humanity’s band of merry makers

gandhi_mlkThroughout our history, both individually and collectively, amid the chaos and tumultuous conflicts, there has been a quiet stream of interactions that have upheld the spirit of our humanity.  Sometimes we have gained shelter from a story, a book, a writer who provided us with the best we have to offer in the context of fantasy, fiction, history or by directly offering us another option.  Sometimes we gain what James Joyce calls aesthetic arrest from paintings or artwork, which act like portals that connect us to all of life instantly.  Sometimes a single melody can transport us purely into the center of being in which are and always will be free.

There have been leaders, such as MLK, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, who use their faith and dedication to bring relief to those around them, inspiring communities to bring about benevolent change.  Then there are those people who open the door for you, run down the street to retrieve something the wind has carried away, speak up for you in a hostile crowd or offer you unsolicited comfort.

This stream of merry makers in all their various forms call out to us to join them.  In all likelihood, we have been among them periodically and delight in their dance that mirrors the depths of love.

As this week of Thanksgiving marches on and we take in the news, encounter marketing ploys, calculated entertainment, holiday anxiety, we may get jostled and frazzled. Lean on whatever centers you and join the parade that is hidden in plain sight.

anne_2148996b

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

-Anne Frank

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Finding each other’s capacity for brilliance

I watched Finding Forrester

 
last night. It reminded me of how we have allowed ourselves to embrace fear and the mediocrity of our stereotyped perception of one another to determine our collective course of action. 
 
This latest tragedy of the Grand Jury pardoning the homicide of Eric Garner in Staten Island is a symptom of how we perceive ourselves in the spectrum of the sream. 
 
Others can perceive us as ignorant or undeserving and pride can make us dig our heels into a chain reaction, but how we truly see ourselves can allow a break in the chain. We can transcend our guilt and avoidance by recognizing each other’s capacity for brilliance.
 
We just celebrated Thanksgiving, which for many has become a tradition of stuffing ourselves to the point of falling asleep because we have a hard time acknowledging that we repaid the courtesy the Native Americans showed to the pilgrims with genocide and reservations.
 
We downplay the brilliance and creative genius of Blacks in America because we are ashamed of slavery and inner city poverty. White people tend to have a homicidal chip on their shoulders. This may be because white is the abscence of color and we somehow don’t feel we fit into the spectrum of colors. So, we insist that we are beyond and above it; not a part of- but separate. 
 
The truth is we are all a part of the natural expanding universe, a part of the stream. While all ethnicity, races, cultures and religions have some natural spice to contribute to the overall flavor of life, all of us have access to the elementary beauty of what makes us move. To be alive is to surprise even ourselves.  Our stereotypes for each other may stem from our fear of the universe having no boundaries. We are a part of that. Surrender ignorance and you risk having your mind blown. If we can handle the pain of compassion we can choose to expand our hearts into the love that also has no boundaries.
 
May your week yield insight beyond annoyance.

 

Getting along, along the Loxahatchee river

I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful and that you can breathe around the middle.
My family was invited up to Jupiter, Florida where a friend of my dad’s had purchased four houses along the Loxahatchee river and connected them via a boardwalk into a compound.  His friend passed away this year and his widow invited us up for Thanksgiving.  My folks extended her generosity and invited the extended family until there were 21 of us enjoying the hospitality and the incredible views off the docks.

A few of us, who are known for being a bit whoo whoo, sent up a treatment for a magical week with no drama.
I am happy to say it worked.  Sending up an intention is no guarantee, but it does help and increases our chances for success.
The hardest thing is to remember to see the people who have a history of not being our favorite differently.
My mom told us a story of another family reunion in which, among the guest list, there were these two cousins. Mostly everyone loved the one cousin and thought the other cousin was mean and bit crabby. As the ‘mean and crabby’ cousin was coming down the steps to the party, my mom’s sister waved at her thinking she was the cousin everyone loved.  Well, this “mean and crabby” cousin, seeing this mistaken reaction to her arrival, lit up and was absolutely delightful and lovely all weekend.
“The most important decision we ever make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe.”
-Albert Einstein
Our host for the week was an amazing woman who, once a month uses the houses to host wounded warriors and their families.  They get to fish and swim, are taken out on a boat, one night her and her team watch the kids so the Vet and his or her spouse can go out for a fancy meal alone.  Our host said their gratitude and appreciation makes the work worthwhile.  Yet she confessed to me that after a few days, even in this beautiful heavenly spot, this one is fighting with that one… “To see a family that seems to really like each other like yours,” she said, “is very refreshing.”

I give the credit to my folks who are so giving with such a generous spirit and amazing sense of humor that accepts you where you are while cheerleading your stronger self, most of my friends have asked if they can adopt themselves into the family.
May you be adopted into an open-armed existence that values you for what you are and nourishes what you have to give!