It is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. This uniquely American holiday is supposed to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for, both as individuals and as a nation, but I fear that this sometimes gets lost in our collective national appetite for overindulgence (we don’t stop eating until we feel remorse) and entertainment (Macy’s Parade, football, holiday TV specials). That we carry out these traditions in the company of our closest friends and family members is important and perhaps even the saving grace of the day, but have we lost the true spirit of Thanksgiving?
I was at my daughter’s school last week for Turkey Bingo. At this event, 25 lucky families won a turkey. We did not, although we came within a B11 of winning. As we were leaving, she grabbed my hand and said, “I want to show you something.” She led me out into the hall to a giant, colorful turkey on the wall. She explained that each of the students had written what they were thankful for on a feather.
The thoughts expressed on the feathers give a picture of the typical things for which the average American kid is thankful. I saw feathers that said things like:
“I am thankful for friends and family.” “I am thankful for my mom.” “I am thankful for my sisters.”
“I am thankful for my grandma and grandpa.” “I’m thankful for my daddy.”
Other feathers said things like:
“I’m thankful for my cat” and “I am thankful for my xBox.”
I noticed a couple of feathers, though, that said things like:
“I’m thankful to be here” and “I am thankful for America.”
“I am thankful to live in a place with no war.”
My daughter goes to a school that has a large number of English Language Learner students. Many came to this country as refugees from Somalia or other countries in East Africa, but she also has friends who came to this country as refugees from Tibet or were adopted from orphanages in China. There are also kids at her school from Central and South America.
Sometimes we forget that the Pilgrims were refugees. In England, they were persecuted on account of their religious beliefs. They took the tremendous risk of coming to this new land in order to be free to practice their own religion. And giving thanks for their freedom was a big part of the first Thanksgiving.
As I looked at that turkey on the wall of my daughter’s school, I had a moment of inspiration. When all of those individual feathers, childishly and colorfully decorated, are put together, you get a lovely image. But you also get much more. When all of those truthful and thankful thoughts are put together, you feel the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
And that is the inspiration and the spirit in which I hope to celebrate this holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, from me and (one of) mine!