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A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving with Context


Thanksgiving is a holiday with a checkered past.  But even facing the history of the holiday with eyes wide open, we can find reason to be thankful.

I give thanks for the child I was who dressed up as an "Indian" out of admiration for the generosity, strength and ingenuity of Native Americans.  In my naivet√©, Native Americans were the MacGyvers of the natural world, knowing how to take what they had and make survival out of it.  They shared this awe-inspiring wisdom with pilgrims, (whom I naively thought of as benign), out of kindness and generosity.  I am grateful for this young version of me who knew nothing of historical accuracy only marveling at cool stories.  Yet the groundwork was laid for appreciation of diversity and an openness to learning truth later in life.

I am grateful I learned something of historical accuracy over the years, eventually coming to understand something of the mistreatment and violence connected with this holiday.  I am grateful increasing numbers of people are aware of this truth and able to bravely face this and other skeletons in the closet of the United States of America.

I am thankful for the humility this day ought to call forth in our national conscience.  No one ought to be able to recall Thanksgiving and still utter judgmental words telling anyone to "go back where you came from."  The radical wrongness of phrases such as "blood-thirsty Indians" ought to bring greater wisdom to our words knowing in hindsight stereotypes of homosexuals, recent immigrants, and all other minorities will be just as glaringly ridiculous.

I am not grateful for what happened to Native Americans.  I will not utter lame platitudes about everything happening for a reason.  Such tragedy, violence and injustice cannot be dismissed so lightly.  At the same time, it is helpful for our holiday of Thanksgiving to be set within a context which discourages vapid "everything is sunshine and roses" sorts of gratitude.  Our gratitude for our blessings is set firmly in the context of a world rife with injustice, where many are hungry, many suffer from violence, many lack basic human needs.  So, I am not grateful so many Native Americans suffered and continue to suffer so much yet I am hopeful.  I am hopeful the wisdom gained from open eyed consideration of our past might lead us to a gratitude from which generosity, peacefulness, and compassion naturally outflow.

A Thanksgiving with context can mean gratitude which leads to action,

compassionate action,

world changing action.

For this we can most certainly be grateful.

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