The more I have learned about it, the more I don’t like Thanksgiving. It is a ritual meal that celebrates genocide… genocide that is still happening. When I worked in the hospital I frequently volunteered to work Thanksgiving and Christmas in exchange for New Year’s Eve off. It was a good arrangement. The few Thanksgiving dinners I have cooked were awkward affairs with just me, my ex, and my ex mother-in-law. Topics of conversation included why our decision to not have children was selfish, and her unfailing belief that the pill was going to give me cancer.
My best memories of Thanksgiving come from my childhood, when my grandma would come visit us from Missouri. One year, the turkey slipped and slid onto the floor. My mom was an animal hoarder, so my grandma cussed and defended the turkey from about 15 cats. I have yet to ever here anyone cuss as fluently as my grandmother did that day. These days, I take place in orphan celebrations with friends … I don’t like that we call them orphan celebrations. When you are good enough friends to open your home and share a meal, you are family.
Otherwise, I hate Thanksgiving. The last few celebrations have been hard. Knowing I was getting ready to file for divorce but keeping quiet about it, that time when a cop came to the a friend’s house wearing a pro-gun shirt and I am a racial justice activist. This year, having dated my boyfriend for over a year, I cannot avoid meeting family. I anticipate awkwardness ahead. I’m bringing wine.
This Thanksgiving we can look to our horror of an election. We have water protectors at Standing Rock, most of them Native themselves, being sprayed with cold water in freezing temperatures. In Denver, there are police harassing the homeless today. Families are meeting today in different shades of awkwardness and anger. I have warned my boyfriend that I will not hold my tongue if someone celebrates our incoming president or makes a racist statement. I believe in the art of calling people in, but I have been pushed thin by anti-choice protesters threatening the lives of myself and my colleagues, the killing of Black folks and other people of color at the hands of the police. I am vocal. I am sharp. I know my talking points. I will not be who I am not. He is bringing more wine.
I hate Thanksgiving but I love to give. It fills me with a warm pleasure that nothing else does. When I am working with a patient and there is something I can do to improve their life or even their day. When I can give a friend financial assistance. This year, I am blessed with the ability to give someone a really special, large gift, and when I realized it, I cried with gratitude that my life is now this good. When you are able to give of yourself and the fruits of your labor. When your life is so good you can help others, you have a blessed and full life. It is a time to be grateful that life has been this good to you.
We are missing this from our society in strange ways. While crowdfunding has become extremely popular, it can also be stressful when 5 of your friends are running fundraisers for life’s necessities and giving to all of them would put you at risk financially yourself. And while it has become exceptionally easy to give cash, the art of giving of things and of yourself seems to be fading away. Today, when taking a friend to breakfast she gifted with a small pot of lotion she had made. It smells like heaven. I am moved with gratitude.
On this ritualized anniversary of a feast, this gift from the indigenous people of our land that white people turned into a genocide, I encourage you to look around your table. Look beyond your table. Someone in your circle is alone today. Someone could use a meal. You have something you don’t use that someone else desperately needs. In giving of yourself, you will find the deepest gratitude to life you will ever know. The ability to give another person stability, food, a safe place to sleep. Never underestimate the value of the small things you can do. To someone else, they are massive.
Be grateful you can help. Be grateful you can give of yourself. The way to truly show your thanks is to give. You will be filled with joy and hope for the future. Today give thanks by giving someone else stability, food, a warm place to sleep. You will not regret the privilege you have been given to give.