Next week we will gather around tables all over this country to celebrate a holiday that calls us home more than any other. It’s hard to believe that it only became a national holiday in 1941. To learn more about how Thanksgiving became the most celebrated holiday in our national secular calendar check out this resource.
But millions in our nation will not have a table to gather around or a decent meal to eat. A holiday is an especially lonely time to feel impoverished . So we can support local food banks and efforts to provide a special holiday meal to those who cannot afford it. At a moment when we celebrate gratitude for the bounty in our lives, we should all question why poverty persists in this country and some have never experienced the cornucopia of plenty. My wish is that while we will not solve that problem at our tables we also will not ignore it.
I have other wishes. Yes, I want the meal to be good. I am frying a turkey using an indoor fryer for the first time and irrationally I wish that my house does not burn down. I wish that my 88 year old father will enjoy the fact that all but two of his nine great grandchildren will be here, despite the fact that they will definitely make lots of noise. I wish that someone remembers to take pictures because we never do. I wish that the guys will happily stop watching football when it’s time to eat. I wish that this growing ( four generations), intermarried (Jews and Christians), gay (two married female couples), divorced, re-married and in-it for-life family continues to open its arms wide to new members and welcome them with love and ruthless, big-hearted humor.
I wish that we will create memories of lasting meaning for our youngest children as they see us do Thanksgiving the only way we know how—with a ceremony that celebrates our gratitude for being Americans. Then, experience the discussion of some way in which we differ because, after all, we are Americans. And this is what we have been doing since our founding. We are teaching them right at our table that we can have different views of what America means to us. We can even disagree about where we are as a country, what constitutional amendment we care about, where we are succeeding or failing. We are not always good at this but we try.It's our right and responsibility as citizens. There is laughter, sometimes raised voices but no one is accused of violating anyone’s personal space, kicked out or ostracized. The only risk is humiliation.... if you burn the turkey.
So I wish that all over the country as we sit down to our meals we will do more than give thanks and dive into the turkey. We will remember that our dining tables are classrooms without blackboards or walls. We will try to teach our children how to think for themselves, hold different opinions from ours, and perhaps be different from us. Yet know that they will always have a place at our table and in the conversation. For that I would be thankful. I could not think of a better way to celebrate us.