Thanksgiving is a holiday that is all about gratitude, giving thanks, coming together with family and friends to break bread and re-connect. I could write entire individual blog posts on each item I have to be thankful for: my family, my friends, my health, a roof over my head, feeling safe, the ability to travel freely. I’ll start right away with a THANK YOU. I am so grateful for each of those things and more.
For the sake of this not becoming a dissertation, I am going to limit my list to some of the basics that I don’t believe many of us in the U.S. spend much time thinking about. I am thankful for: clean water that is readily available and inexpensive; ample supplies of food; toilets that flush and plumbing that works; clean and functional hospitals; libraries (FREE books that you can just take at will!); public education for all through 12th grade; a postal service that efficiently gets correspondence, bills, and packages from point A to point B (yes some countries – Guatemala being one – don’t have that).
Of course there are exceptions to even those examples – residents of Flint, MI, surely would not highlight their water system; food insecurity is real and healthy food can be very expensive and unaffordable on many budgets; some people live off the grid without flush toilets and plumbing; we all know the U.S. healthcare system has its issues; libraries and public education are free but widely variable in quality depending on the local tax base; and the postal service is having trouble keeping up with the times.
Yes, there are haves and have nots, there will always be people with more and those with less (see Desiderata poem), and corruption and inequity exist here, too. But, overall, damn we are lucky. It’s not that there aren’t problems or that it’s perfect; but we have a basic standard of living in the U.S. that exceeds the norm in many places. And that’s something I want to acknowledge and say thank you for.
As I traveled through Guatemala, I was simultaneously reminded about all that I take for granted while being struck by the contrasts that so often exist within a developing country. There is such beauty and yet such poverty. It’s a compelling place to visit, but such a challenging place to live. There are resources available to travelers from afar that people who live in the country couldn’t dream of accessing (due to the vast difference in the value of a dollar against local currencies).
The issues facing disenfranchised communities in the U.S. and abroad are big and overwhelming. The scope of the problems and the sense of hopelessness can be paralyzing. I have spent a lot of time on the sidelines wondering how I could possibly help, worrying that my involvement as a “helper” could be counter-productive, and generally so caught up in not knowing which direction to head that I headed nowhere.
Recently, though, I have changed my mindset. I am choosing gratitude over guilt. I am choosing to face into problems and be part of the solution, versus doing nothing because it all feels too big or uncomfortable.
So what will I do? What can we do? Champion. Invite. Invest. Find people doing good work and shine the light on them. In the Quaker faith, they “hold someone in the light” to bring attention to a person’s suffering. Essentially the concept is to shine a light on hard times. Hold people and communities up to the light in their time of need. Bring attention to the issues that matter to you and be an ally to positive change. Invite others to join you, to see these places and people, to face into the problems and be part of the solution. And, if you have some money to spare, invest in the good work that is happening and the real changemakers doing it.
Thanksgiving is about inviting everyone to the table for a meal and saying thank you. It is not always easy, it can be stressful, and it also has a conflicted history. But the concept is right on. As I enjoy the bounty of good food and the company of family, I will be conscious of my good fortune, I will be saying thank you, and I will be holding those who are struggling in the light.
Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble.
From Positive Energy + https://Instagram.com/positiveenergy_plus