Thoughts on Thanksgiving
I wish I could separate this day of thanksgiving from our history of murdering Indigenous People and destroying their culture. I keep trying to figure out how to celebrate all the things I have to be grateful for without dismissing the history around this day. I haven’t quite figured out how to do it, but I think part of it might be holding lots of gratitude for the people who’ve helped me, challenged me, walked with me, and pointed me in a different direction.
I’m not entitled to that help, it’s not owed to me, but I’ve gotten it, from so many people – from family to teachers, clients, clinic escorts, people I used to go to church with, co-workers, people who grow food, prepare it, and serve it, construction workers who build things and mechanics who fix them, and on and on and on. I want to recognize and hold appreciation for all of them, especially today.
I was looking for a picture to post with this, and noticed what interesting ideas we have about being thankful. We tell people they should be grateful because it could be worse, be grateful because it will make you feel better, or be grateful because God likes it. There often feels like an underlying threat to me – be grateful or else… Ooooh like the story of The Wish Fish!
In that old fairytale, a fisherman catches a magical fish who promises to grant his wishes if he will set the fish free. The fisherman and his wife are very poor and so he asks for something simple. The fish happily grants that wish and the fisherman goes home. His wife is appalled that he asked for so little. (The story is sometimes called the Greedy Wife.) She keeps sending him back to ask for more until the fish gets so angry that he takes away all the wishes he’s granted and leaves them just like he found them. Obviously, a cautionary tale about wanting too much, being too demanding, and not appreciating what you have.
Our messages about Thanksgiving often remind me of that story.
That’s not the stance I want to take. I want to be thankful without threats and thankful without looking for the pay-off.
And I don’t want to direct the thanks to some supreme being, regardless of whether or not there is one. If I’m grateful to God for sending me this person or that thing, grateful to God for giving me shelter and food and so on, then it seems like I’m imagining a God who portions these things out. “Here, you can have these supports and these blessings in abundance, but I’m not giving everyone all this stuff. Just the people who deserve it, or just the people who appreciate it,” or whatever rationale you use for God letting people starve to death.
I think that’s how the colonists saw it. “Thank you God for sending us these Indians to help us.” So the Indigenous People were seen as tools God sent to keep the Pilgrims alive rather than wonderful people in their own right who generously helped. Or grudgingly helped. Whatever.
And that kind of thanks is not what I want to do. I want to see the big picture, just for minute – be able to see the overwhelming vast network of people who help make life alll the wonderful things it is. And then to imagine each of those people, with their own lives, their own stories, their own struggles. And for a moment, to be able to hold all of that with appreciation for what it is.
Have a lovely Thanksgiving. ❤