Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A National Day of Thanks

Recently, I read an article in The Atlantic about the role of analytics in finding and crafting the next palatable pop song. It talked in particular about the role of “fluency,” or the concept of people finding comfort in familiar hooks and themes as directly correlated to the relative success of a song.

If we were ranking holidays in terms of fluency, Thanksgiving would be number one on the pop chart.

It is the ultimate in comfort and familiarity. Everyone has their own particular traditions of who, what, when, and where. We don’t even know why we do it anymore. All we know is that it must involve that favorite football game, those pearled onions, your mother’s apple pie.

Thanksgiving is only loosely modeled after that first meal between the pilgrims and the Native Americans in 1621. The national holiday we observe today came only after many states began to adopt a day of thanks in the mid nineteenth century. It was often observed in late November after the fury and strife of elections and after the farmers had finished with their biggest harvest of the season.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a native New Englander and editor of a women’s weekly, was on a quest to make a day of thanks a national holiday that occurred on the same day in each of the states each year. It was Sarah who ultimately petitioned Abraham Lincoln to issue the formal proclamation that officially made thanksgiving a national holiday. With a bloody civil war as her background, Hale was more compelled than ever that a national day of thanks was what was needed to help heal and unite the nation. In 1860, she wrote this: “If this November does not seem the time for rejoicing, then consecrate the last Thursday in the month to benevolence of action, by sending gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of kindness that will for one day make every American home the place of gladness and every American heart hopeful and thankful.”

And so we consecrate this last Thursday of the month to the benevolence of action, to the radical act of reaching out, opening our hearts and minds, and engaging, accepting and even learning from those who look different and think different than we do. In the words of Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” On this Thanksgiving eve, let us offer hope to those in the dark. Offer up love and peace and grace even for those whom you strongly disagree. Let us offer some light.

From our family to yours, we wish you a peaceful holiday filled with lots of love, light and gratitude.