Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks for Giving

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver." -Maya Angelou

I wasn't always a huge fan of Thanksgiving. I can take or leave turkey, mashed potatoes don't really do it for me, and the gelatinous, wine-colored cylinder that slinks out of the can of cranberry "sauce" leaves me cold. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the festive atmosphere, but in the past, I thought of Thanksgiving as just the kick-off for Christmas. Recently, possibly in the last five minutes, I have gained a greater appreciation of Thanksgiving's many merits. First, I had to set aside the fact that our idea of Thanksgiving is largely a lovely myth that obscures the reality of how the Pilgrims stole Native American land and paid them in smallpox. Sorry, but let's just get that out there... Moving on.

While the story of how and why we came to celebrate this day has been glamorized, the end result is the same. Today is a day that people all across the country celebrate. Regardless of race or religion, Americans are taking time today to stop, give thanks, and break bread with loved ones. One of the things I love most about this country is its diversity. The number of cultures, races, and religions represented in the U.S. population is staggering, and that is a beautiful thing. It can, however, make navigating holiday greetings somewhat tricky. I don't assume that the checker at the grocery store or the receptionist at the gym celebrates Christmas, so I fumble around with an awkward, generic sounding, "Happy holidays!" And that's okay. Even though many of them were born in the States, a number of my students don't really celebrate the 4th of July, believing that it would somehow detract from their pride in their Mexican heritage. And that's okay too. Thanksgiving, for some reason, is different. The spirit of gratitude is something that everyone can embrace. As I'm writing this, I'm remembering one Jehovah's Witness student I had who answered my "Happy Thanksgiving!" with a rather morose, "We don't celebrate," but in general, I think a "Happy Thanksgiving" wish is a safe bet for just about anyone you happen to pass in the street today.

Wow, this post has gone in an entirely unexpected direction, and now it's past the time when I said I was going to head out the door to give thanks and break bread with my loved ones... When I sat down to write this, I had planned to talk about the second half of the word, the giving bit, because that is what I am thankful for today. I am grateful that I am in a position where I can afford to give a little, because really, nothing feels as good as giving. [This reminds me of a whole philosophical debate about whether or not it is possible to do something that is truly altruistic, and that reminds me of the Friends episode where Phoebe sets out to do something totally selfless, but like I said, I'm running late...]

Anyway, last year I had the idea/read somewhere about keeping care package type things in your car for when you run into the men and women who are asking for money at stoplights, the exit at the mall, etc. I thought that it was such a good idea, but it just wasn't feasible last year. This year, I decided to give it a go.

So I went to Target and bought this:

And I packaged it up like this:

I apologize for this somewhat haphazard post; I had hoped to write something more profound and less schizophrenic, but this is what you get because it's turkey time! Here's Adam Sandler for you...

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