‘Tis the season for giving thanks — in a sense, Thanksgiving is a somewhat odd tradition, uniquely American, a day off in the middle of the week to feast on dishes made only once a year for most people (ok, who eats jellied cranberry that holds the shape of the can at any other time?), a long weekend of shopping and travel and long airport lines and huge traffic jams and football games and trying to ignore Aunt Hettie’s more bizarre comments or Uncle Clyde’s deliberate attempts to create an argument. The rituals evoke some terribly wrong mythology about Native Americans and Pilgrims, and yet, we’re happy to gorge on cornbread stuffing with turkey gravy because we think it’s somehow an authentic link to 1620 at Plymouth Rock, or something like that. We love it, we Americans, it’s weird and feels just right.
We can rescue this season from all the kitsch by honoring the real idea of giving thanks. Expressions of gratitude certainly should not be limited to one day or one season — gratitude is always in season, and we should practice the habit of gratitude continuously as a powerful antidote against the self-absorption that is a constant danger in these iPhone-staring days.
What moves us to express gratitude today and every day?
Family first. Seeing the image of the cranberry sauce slipped from the can (above) reminds me of my Mom and the decades she spent preparing three meals a day for her ravenous brood (7 children and Dad, that’s a lot to feed every day! About 30,000 meals over a 30 year period, but who’s counting?). At Thanksgiving she always went to the farmer’s market for a fresh turkey — no frozen birds for her, tho she did the canned cranberry thing — and one year she went overboard and came home with a 27-pounder that would not fit into the oven. We had turkey meals for weeks thereafter…. Let’s give thanks for the moms and dads who go overboard, for the siblings and spouses and partners and relatives we love and those who are harder to like but who are part of the sustaining web of our lives. Let’s give thanks for the friends who we also count as family, those who are there for us and who we can count on in every season.
Community. Wherever we live or work or volunteer, our communities are also essential parts of our lives, and we count on them to help us to thrive. Sometimes our communities are not as healthy as they should be, and working to build and sustain life-giving, peaceful communities is a lifelong effort. We must be grateful for those who work with us in this endeavor, because like family and friends, our communities at their best make sure we are never alone, support us in hard times and bring joy all year through the events and activities of communal life. The office potluck, the neighborhood yard sale, the PTA meeting, the volunteer day painting a school, the march for justice and civil rights — these are all expressions of solidarity in the community.
Trinity. I am grateful for the gift of Trinity in my life each day, and I hope that you are, too. In a world that suffers so much violence, dysfunction, cruelty and despair, Trinity is a place of hope, of striving for improvement, of learning how to be of service to the world. Oh, sure, there are days when things don’t go according to plan — a late paper, a missed quiz, an experiment gone awry, falling short of goals, games lost, mistakes made, and buildings not working quite right. But in the larger scheme of life, what we have at Trinity is a fundamentally good and moral community of people devoted to teaching and learning together, strivers who really do want to change the world, leaders who are impatient with the status quo because achieving the change we need is an urgent imperative. No matter how contentious things may seem on any given day at Trinity, I know and am deeply grateful for the fact that we are an institution, a community, a people who firmly believe that our work can make a difference, that through the power of education we can help to achieve justice for those who need it so very much. Many, many thanks to the students, faculty and staff who make Trinity such a remarkable place to work, study and learn each day!
Special thanks and deep gratitude to the generous benefactors and hard-working trustees and alumnae volunteers whose support and leadership are essential for Trinity’s success!
Country. Our Trinity community represents dozens of countries from every part of the world, and we give thanks for the rich diversity that helps us to learn about and understand the history, culture, languages, beliefs and systems of so many different nations. The global perspectives of Trinity students, faculty and staff also inform and enrich our approach to the current challenges of the United States. We give thanks for the many immigrants in our campus population who have shown so much courage and persistence in the face of political callousness and grave injustices. We are grateful for the freedoms guaranteed in the American Constitution, especially the Freedom of Speech, so that we can be advocates and activists to pursue justice for those who count on us. We give thanks for all those who work tirelessly to achieve greater racial justice in our nation, to enact policies that will provide some relief for the poor and ensure decent healthcare for children and others in need. We give thanks for those who are fearless in demanding strong political action to put an end to gun violence, to protect the environment that is deteriorating each day, to improve educational opportunities for all children, to re-ignite a passion throughout the American people for civil and human rights. We give thanks for those who are willing to accept the responsibilities and burdens of public leadership, especially at this time of so much contentiousness and so many dangers to our democracy.
A habit of gratitude is a means to sustain optimism, to accept the world as it is without regretting what we do not have. We need optimism to keep moving ahead, to believe that we can and will reach a far better place in our personal, institutional, communal and national lives. We cannot make change if we give in to pessimism, if we stay in bed and pull the covers over our heads in the fruitless hope that someone else will do the hard work for us. Think of all those Thanksgiving calories as storing-up the energy necessary for optimism to prevail.
Thanks to all for the many ways in which you energize and empower progress at Trinity and in our community!