Privilege and Thanksgiving

I have never been a Thanksgiving person.  I do not actively oppose Thanksgiving, and I do love a good table setting and an excuse to use fine china and heirloom silver, but it has just never been my thing.  In part, I think it is because I have always loved Christmas and have sort of thought as Thanksgiving as a day to check off so we can get to the main, more glitzy, event. Thanksgiving has always seemed a bit blah, gray, and I don’t know, boring?  Like many things in life my husband has changed my perspective gradually over the years.  He loves Thanksgiving.  He loves the low-key vibe of it all, and he loves to feed those that he loves.  He loves the rest and simplicity of it all.


I think I too have always been acutely aware of my privilege at Thanksgiving.  I have so much. I have time, clothing, shelter, and food in excess. Compared to many other people I share this planet with I am so rich and so full.  Much of this “stuff” that I have is simply due to being born where and when I was born.  I am white.  I am a man.  I am upper middle class.  I am an American.  Of course, it would seem that I have much to be thankful for to some, but that seems almost showy and braggy in a way.  I struggle with how to be grateful for the things and experiences I have while still being mindful, and angry, about those denied so many often in my name and in the name of my country or religion.  Classic over-thinker? Perhaps.


But, here comes Edie Daring and my life perspective changes in so many ways, obviously.  And what is that feeling that I seem to have more and more every day?  Gratitude. Thankfulness.  That feeling that this life is enough.  As we struggle with all the ins-and-outs of parenting and the responsibility of trying to raise a strong woman who is also a good person, one thing that seems very important in that process is teaching her to be thankful and grateful.  For it seems, one way to actually counteract in a way all of this privilege and often excess, is to learn to be grateful and happy and thankful with the ordinary and the mundane as well as the enormous and immeasurable.  One way to be happy with where you are in every moment is to be thankful.  This does not let us off the hook.  We can still be mindful of privilege and injustice and the evil of greed and power and be thankful at the same time.  Thankfulness softens us a bit and makes it a little easier to persevere in health against all the growing inequities in the world today. Thankfulness gives us hope.


I was struck recently at church about the lack of thanksgiving.  During our liturgy in the Episcopal church there is a part where we pray (duh). Specifically we offer our prayers of supplication and then prayers of thanksgiving.  Basically, we ask God (the universe, higher power, Light, Love) for stuff on our behalf and on the behalf of others. There then comes a time when we say what we are thankful for or what we want to thank God for.  We always seem to have a long list of out-loud asks for God, often folks that are ill.  This is great! However, when it comes time to say the things for which we are thankful it is often quiet.  Now, I am sure many people, like myself, name things in our heart. Edie and Tim always are first in mine.  I bet too that many people struggle with naming gratitude out loud.  Thanksgiving is a chance to do that.  Thanksgiving Day gives us a day to be vocal and say out loud those things for which we are thankful, and to not be embarrassed about it, for whatever reason.


Thanksgiving seems to reassure us that we have enough. We are enough. The Earth is enough. Love is enough.  A perfect transition into the season of Hope that is the Holiday season, I suppose.  Also, thanksgiving is a way to perhaps curb our excess and want for those of us that systematically have too much and as a reminder to work for justice and fairness economically for those that are without. Edie reminds me every single day of the importance of gratitude for everything.  She has a cold right now and is a terrible sleeper when she is sick.  I spent most of the night in a rocking chair keeping her upright so she could breathe.  This morning I am thankful for that (at 3 a.m. I confess I was not) because I have been told that some day I will miss those days.  Edie and Tim and I all love each other unconditionally and if ever there was anything to be thankful for that is at the top of the list.


Like many things in parenting, Edie is the one actually teaching us.  As we worry about teaching her to be grateful and thankful and thus a “good person” she is already a step ahead of us and is helping us to catch up.  We just have to shut up and let it happen.


Edie is thankful for strawberries.  Edie is thankful for leaves of every color, and snow, and puddles, and thrift shop baby clothes for her baby dolls.  Edie is thankful for her dog, Rufus, her sandbox, friends Noah and Ebba, and for maple syrup.  Edie is thankful for music, cartwheels, trampolines, and for salami.  Edie is thankful for chickens, seagrass, the ocean, and for her family.  Edie is thankful for Mars, her blanket out of the warm dryer, the woods, and her scooter.  Her list and her gratitude goes on and on and on.  Because of her, mine does too.  I am okay with that and look forward to a day of relishing in that.

Happy Thanksgiving.




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