Getting beyond thankfulness

This Thanksgiving, let's take a minute to talk not just about what we're thankful for, but about what we must do to care for the people and things around us.
Crosscut archive image.
This Thanksgiving, let's take a minute to talk not just about what we're thankful for, but about what we must do to care for the people and things around us.

A 6-year-old was asked where his grandma lived. ''Oh,'' he said, ''she lives at the airport, and when we want her we just go get her. Then we take her back to the airport!”

This has been a really tough year, with hurricanes, layoffs, droughts, wars and angry politics. Many in our communities are seriously hurting. The species’ only possible survival solution to current crises like climate change may be a total transformation of our lifestyles and assumptions.

And Thanksgiving is coming around again.

This could be the perfect year to bring meaningful ritual back into the holiday that has been primarily known for the 5,000 average  calories we gorge ourselves with. How do we create a meaningful Thanksgiving ritual that is joyful, but also lets us see where we are today as a society and where we have to go? Such questions are a great place to start.

In the hours before dinner, bring out the art supplies and ask each child to make a mask of a wild animal that they feel connected to. Kids could be encouraged to choose and research their animal at home before they arrive. At the table, ask each child to say a few words about why they chose this species or even why the species chose them. Where does their animal live? What does their animal eat? Where does that food come from? Is their animal part of endangered species? What is being done to protect that species? The masks will inspire more than a few laughs despite the seriousness of the topic.

Grownups can go on to ask everyone, What does sustainability mean? How do you know that you have achieved it? Where does the food on this table come from? Where does the water come from? What ambitions, entitlements and practices were we taught growing up? Did those lead to living a truly sustainable existence? Can we envision and build sustainable communities that are based on diversity, mutuality and love?

The ritual doesn't have to be heavy or painful. I believe that we will find amazing joys buried in the process of discussing these questions. It would be a really helpful idea to use circle techniques for doing this: Let each person talk for a specific period of time without any crosstalk from others. If need be, a talking stick can ensure that eeryone sticks to the rules and a timekeeper can make sure that grandpa doesn’t talk too much. 

Leave time to talk about joy and gratefulness. What are you feeling joyful and grateful for? What new joys have you discovered this year? What do you feel like celebrating today?

Finally, you might take a moment to reflect on somebody or some group that is very important to you. What do you personally need to do to help ensure that that somebody or group will be safe?

Thanksgiving’s arrival during a chaotic, potentially threatening time is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what is most important to us, what brings us joy and what we need to defend. But remember — don't eat too much, and don’t forget to take grandma back to the airport.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors