Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving in the US is hard holiday for me and many people--fraught with ambiguity.

On one hand, this holiday is about how the Native People helped the European colonists survive and how thankful the Pilgrims were for this. Of course, the repayment for this act of kindness was that the Native People were eventually wiped out. The United American Indians of New England claim, "The first official 'Day of Thanksgiving' was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men." These folks celebrate 'Thanksgiving Day' as a 'National Day of Mourning'. Is this what I want to celebrate?

On the other hand, I am really taken by the idea of setting aside any time, let alone a full day, to be grateful and thankful. I think we should spend our lives being grateful, even just for being alive. We have many blessings in this life and I believe that we need to acknowledge them.

Still, this seems to be a day where what we are grateful for is the blessings that have come to us through privilege, that we were not born or become poor, that we have this wonderful country that came from getting rid of the Native People that lived here in what amounts to genocide and enslaving people from Africa to build our infrastructure. This isn't what I want to celebrate.

Yet this year, my family will be gathering together, mostly to celebrate our connections with each other and to support one another. I certainly want to celebrate this.

Contradictions, uncertainty--what are we really celebrating here? What do I want to support?

I would like to support general thankfulness and connection while acknowledging our privilege and trying to figure out how to help those in need of help. My housemate has made a tradition of going down to the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth and helping feed the people there--some year I would like to do that. I know others who go to soup kitchens and help feed people on Thanksgiving. When I lived in Brattleboro, VT, I helped out (mostly by doing dishes) with a feast put on by people in the town where they would feed anyone who came, no questions asked, including the homeless and people who drove up from New York in fancy cars--and also brought meals to the elderly and to police and firefighters who had to work that day.

This year I am going to spend the day with my family. It's our first Thanksgiving since my mother's death--and, in fact, Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my mother awake, interacting, and talking with us. We need to be with each other, especially since some of my family are facing the possible deaths of in-laws.

I'm not sure what I will do next Thanksgiving. But I do try to take the opportunity every day to be thankful and not save it for one, culturally loaded day.

Quote of the Day: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. ... Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melodie Beattie


ethicalsusan said...

What a lovely post. I think you captured the complexities and the
simplicity of this day, and the importance of trying to be grateful
throughout our lives, not just on one particular day.

I'm grateful to know you and get to share in your wise thoughts.

MoonRaven said...

Thank you for the comment. I know that you know how complex it all is. I appreciate your patience and support with many things.