It’s that time. Tomorrow the lucky Americans (because let’s not forget: not all of our citizens are living “The Dream”) will be seated at a table with family or friends or people they’re meeting for the first time, and there will be more food than anyone knows what to do with. They’ll be on their best behavior until someone has had a little too much to drink, or until someone’s last nerve gets frayed or button gets pushed. The drama and indigestion will ensue while a few sneak off to watch our gladiators give each other concussions between the goal posts.
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love what it stands for. Gratitude, giving thanks, being grateful. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we should be grateful every day of the year. Nothing could be truer. Still, I like that there’s at least one day of the year when gratitude is front and center and the star of the show.
Except that it’s not. Somewhere along the way, even the gratitude got lost. The food took center stage. The stress of preparing house and meal, and the turkey coma, sugar crash, bloatedness and heartburn afterwards have overshadowed the central plot. At some tables the scene where everyone gives thanks for something–out loud–that scene’s been skipped! The audience doesn’t want the food to get cold or for the youngest ones to get fidgety. Besides, there’s a whole other tragedy/comedy about to begin with the kickoff on TV. Because, alas, that’s how we bond and “share” experiences these days: with a screen in front of our faces.
I’m not saying this is happening in every home in America, or that this has even been my experience over the years, but I can count on one hand the Thanksgivings I’ve shared with others that have truly been about the gratitude, where the rituals of the day have been centered around the expression of what we are grateful for, including the food on the table, and beyond. Far, far beyond.
We are living during a time of heightened consciousness around the plight of refugees, although, if you think about it, at any given point in human history (both recent and not) there have been refugees, because there have been leaders–often power-hungry, psychopathic individuals–who have persecuted their own people, and made their lives a living hell.
Today there are millions who don’t even have a country to call their own, let alone roof or table or food. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I feel so, so lucky to have been born a citizen of these imperfect United States of America. Because that’s all it took. Luck. Pure cosmic luck. I’m not any more deserving of peace, health, education, or prosperity than the Syrians today or the Guatemalans of the 1970s or the Eastern European Jews of the early 1900s or the Protestants of the 1600s.
If you have a roof over your head; if you have food on the table; if you have someone to share your meal with; if you have your health; if you are educated; if you can vote; if you are not being hunted because of your faith, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, or race; if your children are not facedown on a foreign shore–then consider yourself lucky. You can pat yourself on the back for all your hard work and all your accomplishments, but understand this: it was cosmic luck that got you here, on this particular latitude and longitude. It wasn’t your hard work that got you born American. You don’t get to take credit for that.
And if you weren’t born here, then at some point you or your people chose to leave where you were in order to enjoy the greater opportunities here. Perhaps you and your people were fleeing for your lives. Perhaps you simply desired a higher standard of living. So those of you who are immigrants or refugees, or descendants of the same, who are arguing for “securing our borders,” please shut up and go away already. Your hypocrisy is monumental.
We are all deserving of the whole turkey feast with its trimmings, side dishes and even dessert. Those of us who already have a seat at the table must take responsibility for seeing that everyone who wants to, gets to join us.
Count your blessings. Name them out loud. Realize that there is always enough to share. There always has been, not because of our capacity as a country to open our wallets, but because of our capacity as perhaps the luckiest humans on earth to open our hearts. Happy Thanksgiving.