It’s free. It’s has no calories. It’s very healthy, and feels good too! Not only does it carry no guilt, it can even help to relieve the weight of guilt. It can begin to repair damaged relationships. It’s not political, has no party affiliation, requires no deep knowledge of electoral votes, Citizens United, the problem of Florida or even a nanosecond thinking about 2016. It takes only a nanosecond, itself, but the glow can last for hours.
It’s called Giving Thanks. Thank You. Merci! Danke! Gracias! Grazie! Xie Xie! Arigatou gozaimasu! Shukran! The sentiment is universal, the effect just as pleasing in any language or culture.
Americans have this elaborate ritual on the day of Giving Thanks. We travel miles, often at great inconvenience, to spend a few hours with family. We slice up a huge turkey and slather it in ritualized sauces and side dishes. We repair to the couch to watch big men beating each other up, aka, football.
Did we give thanks today?
We live in perilous, weird, difficult times. The Middle East is blowing up yet again. The election is over but the politics never stop. Once-impeccable role models fall off pedestals with increasing frequency, littering the landscape with their lame excuses for tawdry escapades. The economy teeters on the edge of something called the “fiscal cliff” though Washington cognoscenti say it really won’t happen, it’s all posturing. And if you believe that, you might believe that hurricanes are only a southern problem.
Did we give thanks today?
How can we possibly give thanks when so much deceit, despair and dysfunction fills the front pages every day?
Well, for heavens sakes, we can either stay in bed and pull up the covers, or step out with a different attitude and say, THANK YOU!
We can challenge the conventional wisdom of the moment that everything it just terrible, that we are all victims of something or other, that we must be relentlessly, nay, ruthlessly self-interested because … well, because. Twinkies are gone. Rest the case.
Have we given thanks today?
Giving thanks requires tearing off that game face, letting down your hyper-guard against appearing — scandale! — uncool, not ironic enough, perhaps even a bit needy. Like when your state needs federal assistance after a hurricane. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie incurred the wrath of hard-line partisans when he had the nerve to thank President Obama for rushing federal aid to north Jersey after Sandy. Thank you, Mr. President! For that he gets pilloried? Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
What’s wrong is that our politicians don’t give us enough exemplars of gratitude, of genuinely appreciative behaviors, of taking the risk to be vulnerable enough to admit that someone else’s talent or help might be important. Politicians, entertainers, athletes — the major icons of our time seem to be all about their iconography rather than their indebtedness to others. Maybe if Lance Armstrong had thought about all the people to whom he owed gratitude, he might not have been so selfish as to steal cycling titles through doping.
So, even as we polish off those final morsels of stuffing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, let’s remember the purpose of the ritual — a moment to stop and reflect on our blessings, and to give thanks to those whose love, hard work, dedication and selfless commitment make our lives a little better each day.
My “thank you” list can grow quite long on any given day — here at Trinity, we remember and give thanks to the wonderful women whose courage, vision, energy and sheer drive made this great university possible. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, from our founding in 1897 to this very minute, continue to find ways to support, delight, teach and inspire all of us.
Today I want to give a special shout out of huge THANKS to Sr. Margaret Claydon who is recuperating well from an injury she suffered in a fall two weeks ago. As Trinity’s president from 1959 to 1975, she led this great college into the modern era, and thousand of alumnae remember and revere the many lessons of leadership and courage she taught us. Thank you, Sister Margaret! Happy Thanksgiving!
Special thanks to all of our faculty and staff who work so hard to sustain Trinity today. The hours are long, and the work can be difficult on many days. What I appreciate most is the great sense of mission and purpose that our colleagues bring to this remarkable endeavor.
We have marvelous benefactors, devoted alumnae and alumni, and wonderful friends. Many thanks!
And of course, a huge THANKS to our students — we wouldn’t be here without you! And most important, you, our students, fill our days with great meaning, challenge us to do our best, and bear witness to the worth of Trinity in your many achievements each day.
THANK YOU to all, you are a remarkable community, a place of hope and generosity in a city that needs the example of Trinity so very much. Happy Thanksgiving!