November 22, 2018

to face the dark of giving thanks

Art by Gloria di Simone
It's Thanksgiving Day.

Alice's Restaurant will play on NPR in just under an hour.

We're guilty of it having become almost entirely about the food.  This isn't as bad as it sounds.  Every culture in the world has its dishes that are prepared and eaten only when marking a significant day or cultural or religious rite.  Food can evoke the cyclical grounding points of human existence.

In our celebrating this day, the awareness of the atrocities committed by a conquistador and his crew that over centuries came to be sanitized and painted in pastels for children has led to a divorce from promulgation of Thanksgiving's simplistic origins and, instead, a shift to a focus on gratitude.  Gratitude for food, gratitude spoken around a table of plenty, gratitude for "blessings" among those of faith or, for us, for what simply is, what came to be, and for what did not.

Oh, there are the football games in the afternoon, talk of plans for camping out that evening for a Black Friday sale, but the gratitude can come forth in its cocoon and the hope is always there, ever there, that it will emerge and land in the heart again and again year-round.  We must learn to begin the exercise somewhere, and the Thanksgiving table is for many that place.  An awkward effort, but a beginning, a reminder.  A tender shoot, a growth, a nudge, and perhaps in time a wellspring of knowing we cannot practice gratitude sans acknowledgement of its inextricable twin, a willingness to see those invisible in our community, our world, who are without, and to give to them from our own abundant table.  If we have and they have not, our gratitude is incomplete, tainted.

Uncomfortable gratitude until both its facets are honored.  Gratitude unsullied.

May each of us speak of gratitude around a table today, with others bearing witness, and may we each grow uncomfortable instead of complacent.

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