John Beckett posted about gratitude, and a part of his post spoke very true to my experience of Thanksgiving and its role in the Otherfaith (since it is part of our holy calendar):
Gratitude in isolation can focus too much of our attention on ourselves and we can forget that not everyone has it so good. Our thankfulness that we have enough is no substitute for making sure everyone has enough. We accomplish this through giving and teaching, but also through working to change systems that oppress and exploit the poor and the vulnerable. Gratitude must be balanced by a commitment to justice.
Part of gratitude, especially during this time of the year, involves acknowledging the really horrific origins of my comforts in life. I ask, “Where do my blessings come from?” The answer to that question can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable. I am confronted with my own privilege. And this applies to the food I eat, the life I live every day, the products I consume, and even the ground my house is built on. (I am blessed with a spiritually active house because of the painful past of the neighborhood I live in, for example.)
Another quote, this one from Jason Mankey, also captures what Thanksgiving means to the Other People and myself:
It’s true that the Pilgrims did celebrate some sort of Thanksgiving back in 1621, and it did come with Native Americans, pumpkin, and probably wild turkey. Unfortunately it wasn’t necessarily a holiday about “coming together” so much as it was about showing off English muskets. In recent years much of the Pilgrim myth has been stripped away. …The myth has always been better than the reality, but I still find value in it. When people reflect on the Pilgrims and the Patuxet it’s a reflection not of what actually was, but what we wish to be. Most of us do dream of a country where everyone can come together to share a meal without caring about race, creed, or gender.
Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It speaks to the best of what we can be. It’s certainly about food and family, but it’s also about coming together despite our differences.
Thanksgiving is not nearly my favorite holiday, though it starts off my favorite holiday season and favorite month. I would probably easily label it my least favorite, if not for the fact that my brother was born on Thanksgiving five years ago – and his birth has definitely changed my relationship to Thanksgiving and to the entire month of November. (It wasn’t until he was born that I really understood what unconditional love was, and only after he came into my life was I able to appreciate what family meant.)
It’s a complicated holiday, one that brings people together and can also divide us. Family isn’t always an easy thing to be grateful for, nor necessarily something we should be grateful for by default. But, still, it is important in my life. I am able to see my family and do what we do best – eat more food than we should – and this year November and Thanksgiving have helped me refocus on what matters. On where I am going, what I need to do, and who I need to become.