In keeping with my practice of showcasing American holidays as often as possible, I write today of Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday. Here’s a classic Thanksgiving picture.
There’s much going on in this picture. There’s also much missing, heavy winter coats for one thing. But this is not a post about deconstructing this image. It’s a post about finding something to be thankful for, celebrating gratitude in the midst of what seems a dark, discouraging, and depressing turn of events.
I added this image from my last year’s post on the First Thanksgiving just because it makes me smile. Here’s another one.
NOTE: I’ve had these images stored for so long, I have no clue who first uploaded them. So, if it was you, PLEASE let me know; I’d love to give you the credit you deserve.
OK, back to finding gratitude in the oddest places.
Each Thanksgiving, when we go around the table to say what we are particularly grateful for, I’m always struck by how easy it is to find gratitude in the good things. Of course I’m grateful for family, friends, food; I’m grateful for good health and a home I love; I’m often grateful that someone else basted the turkey. Who wouldn’t be?
What is more challenging, and therefore of much more
interest to me, is finding gratitude where I least expect it.
My first Thanksgiving back in the States following Peace Corps (2006), is when I first embraced this idea. We were in Ohio, gathered around the table of one of my sons. His wife had charged each of us with the task of writing down on a strip of paper something we were grateful for. We would read them at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, she told us. Then she and her son would create a garland with them to decorate the Christmas tree.
We followed her directions. As we read them aloud, I heard lots of “good health, family” and so forth, as I’d expected. Then it was my turn; mine was different; I’d written:
I’m thankful for the Newark race riots in 1968.
This did not go over well and, as I expected, I needed to explain myself.
“It’s you,” I told them. “It’s all of us sitting here. This moment couldn’t have happened if not for those riots in Newark that spilled over into our town and forced my mother to move out of the city. She’d never have moved otherwise and I’d never have met Jon and Dave’s father, and we’d not be here today. So yes, I’m very grateful to those riots of 1968.”
It’s the lemonade from the lemon.
That’s what I’m looking for again this year, but without the benefit of hindsight. We’ve had a bushel basket of lemons dumped in our laps. What can I find among them to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season?
Turns out, quite a bit. Here are just
two three that came easily to mind:
- I’m thankful that I now understand just how deeply divided my country is. For without that realization, nothing could be done to alleviate it.
- I’m thankful that this election has raised the political awareness of millions of Americans who are quickly becoming more educated in how their government works. We’ve been an apolitical and apathetic country for too long.
- I’m thankful for the reminder that I live in a country in which civility still rules, in the end; that power is transferred non-violently, openly, civilly, even as I remain vigilant for signs of political corruption by that power.
See how this works? You try it.
I’d love to hear what you have found to be grateful for this year.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie
And gratitude turns a demagogue-led political scene into an opportunity for unparalleled growth and renewed commitment to the principle of We The People.
How about you? Will you add to my list?