Thankfulness Changes My Perspective by

I went to High School on Cape Cod, and as a kid encountered abundant markers, stories, and tales of the first white settlers to make landfall in pursuit of religious freedom and the possibility of prosperity. I often used to walk the cold November beaches and daydream about the hardships the Europeans endured that first winter when most of the 102 passengers spent the season on-board the ship awaiting spring’s arrival in dank, cold, fetid, and miserable conditions. I can only imagine the relief for the surviving 50 at the kindness and generosity of the Abenaki, Pawtuxet, and Wampanoag people who went to the few remaining people aboard the Mayflower with (I imagine) empathy and open hearts, sharing their goods and teaching what to eat, how to survive, and ultimately, how to thrive in the inhospitable climate. What if we let the magnitude of that moment in?

Despite the reality that our holiday of “Thanksgiving” has historically masked and minimized the long, cruel, and bloody history of white settlement in NorthAmerica, I still viscerally feel the heartfelt gratitude that everyone present must have felt in 1621 after an abundant summer harvest that promised less risk of death for those they loved as winter darkness arrived.Read more about the details of Thanksgiving history here. Coming together over a meal gathered through shared effort and cooked slowly over several days must have felt like a chance to inhale and exhale deeply for a brief moment in a collective pause as if to say, “we will be okay, together.”

 

Giving thanks reminds us that what we have is enough. 

 
Most historians believe that the early years of settlement on Cape Cod were harmonious between the indigenous inhabitants and the white settlers. In those years, there was an interdependence that (while it didn’t last) represents something fragile and worth remembering. As human beings, we require connection with other human beings as vitally as we need shelter, water and food. Without it, we will die. In the darkness of a cold ship in the Atlantic Ocean with your family dying around you, I imagine a mother breastfeeding a child, and receiving a gift from another who brings needed companionship, hope, food, and warmth.  Oh, the glory of being seen after nights of perilous darkness and trauma, by another human being who generously shared what they had with you.
 

This Thanksgiving, what if we remember the bounty of our many privileges, whatever they may be, even as we remember the hardships of life?

And perhaps even more importantly, what if we share what we have with those who are unseen or invisible, in the dark or alone, cold or isolated?  It is the reaching across that fills us up, not the fancy meal or adorned table.  This week, we have a sanctioned reminder of everything we have that makes our lives abundant and joyful, most importantly, the company of other human beings who will sit with us to do what must be done even as darkness falls and fear prevails. 

Even as I celebrate the amazing gifts in my life today, and thank you, readers, clients, colleagues, friends, and dear ones, I run perilously close to succumbing to despair at the suffering that exists for others, less fortunate, around me and around the world. My best chance to alleviate suffering, in fact our best chance, is to lift right here, close to home, with the people I see and experience every day, with an honest glance, a kind gesture, a warm drink, a willing ear, a meal, a walk, and an act of grace.
 
Giving thanks reminds us that what we have, when shared, comes back as so much more.

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    2 Responses to "Thankfulness Changes My Perspective"

  1. K. Prestwood says:

    Amen, Moe. So beautifully said. Thank you!

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