I'm Always Thankful, So Do I Need Thanksgiving?

I grew up without a lot. I had enough, but I certainly was not spoiled. I was taught to appreciate what I had, even if I didn't receive everything I wanted. (I finally got that Blue Thunder toy from eBay, so I'm good now.) This was often a tough lesson, but it was one that eventually became part of my identity. So, I can sincerely say that I do not take things for granted. I am genuinely thankful for what I had, what I have, and what I will have. My wife is an amazing partner. My daughter is blossoming into a fantastic child. I've had the opportunity to spend most of my adult life working with children who have blossomed into amazingly positive members of our society. I have even had some success in my new career. So, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't spend time thinking about my blessings. I can only hope my daughter will think along the same lines throughout her life.  

I have been thinking about all this quite a bit recently. Since becoming a parent, I do analyze . . . well, most things to be honest. Thanksgiving is coming up, and it is a holiday that my family celebrates. In theory, Thanksgiving is a great idea. It's a time to come together with family and loved ones to share good times, good thoughts, and good food. 

The holiday reminds me just how much I miss my grandmother who passed away five years ago in November. For all of her many flaws - She once started Thanksgiving dinner without my mom and me. We were the only ones invited - my grandmother made a mean Thanksgiving day meal. I miss those meals. And her company. 

However, the more I think about, the more I become conflicted embracing the excess of Thanksgiving. Ideally, I want to spend time with family. That is, and shall always be, something I value. However, I think in years to come, when my daughter is older and can be involved, I would like to spend holidays giving back instead of taking. I want to spend time helping those who are less fortunate throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season.

I know at some point years from now, my wife and I will probably be hosts to Thanksgiving Day meals. There is something exciting about that prospect. I envision clutching my wife's hand as she stands beside me seated in my barcalounger, with a grandchild or two in my lap with my then adult daughter smiling from across the room. Perhaps it will not only be a day to celebrate the things and people that make us thankful, but to also discuss injustice. It certainly is hard to think about turkey and sweet potato pie with what has happened in places like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago over the last few years. 

But that's not the only thing that I'm pondering during this time of year. I want to have lengthy conversations about the unfortunate parts of American history. How can you celebrate Thanksgiving and that famed meal between the Pilgrims and the natives of this land without discussing what eventually happened to so many of those indigenous people? How can you avoid discussing that there was no one who looked like me on the Mayflower?  I saw this scene below last year on television, which is a reminder that people are ill-equipped to have these discussions.

A major problem of today's society is that people are told not to complain. Don't question that! Let things be. Why rock the boat? Why do we have to change tradition? It's rather simple. Because we evolve. It is our right as American citizens to question. There wouldn't be an America if people didn't question taxation on tea or the right for all to vote or the Jim Crow laws. Questioning aspects of our society doesn't mean someone like me is not happy or ungrateful or unpatriotic. Trust me. I understand how much more challenging it could be if I lived somewhere else. I am a proud American. I drape myself in the red, white, and blue. I love much more about this country than I hate. But, I do think we should be allowed to celebrate (or not celebrate) in ways that make sense for us. 

There is so much I love about Thanksgiving, but I genuinely believe it can be even better with these two things.

1) I hope we will not shy away from its historical complexities.

2) Perhaps we can create a tradition that downplays excess. We don't really properly celebrate service and giving back, as much as we probably should as a society. Maybe it's time to put the GIVING back into ThanksGIVING. 

Posted on November 24, 2015 and filed under Thanksgiving.