There is one vaccine nearly everyone in the U.S. agrees on and takes (mostly) willingly. It’s a serum that, when administered regularly, inoculates against all sorts of typical human pitfalls, from greed to envy to the subtle logic of privilege. It has a detoxifying effect on some of our most ingrained issues, turning our perspective instantly, so we transform into different people, for a moment and sometimes for far longer.
The U.S. has a holiday to celebrate this vaccine, and we call it “Thanksgiving.” Later this week, many people reading this post will sit with family and friends and feast. Some will go around a heavily laden table and say things they are grateful for. Some of us will do that reluctantly and only because we want others to see us as willing participants—and that is OK too.
It is in the uttering of thanks that the magic begins.
Giving thanks out loud has a way of boomeranging back so that, finally, we hear and absorb what we just said. And even our most cynical mind may start to believe the thing we hear our mouth say. These are not lies—these thankful things—they are truths that have been long buried under our busyness or rage or weariness. To stop and say them has the effect of constructing a bit of social reality—let’s call it a bridge—that can lead to a different path forward.
Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of mine, mostly because of gravy. Sure: turkey and stuffing and pie. And people. But, really—gravy. These days I’m intrigued by the detoxifying and decentering qualities that accompany giving thanks. It’s a bridge forward that starts with a word of recognition and ends with gravy and a nap and a bunch of conversations with babies, toddlers, children, family, and friends, along with a recounting of undeserved bounty.
Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for reading all the way to this last…word.