Monday, December 1, 2008


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was well-timed to give everyone a chance to relax, revitalize, and get healthy. So that in itself is something to be thankful for!

As an Englishwoman, I find the festival of Thanksgiving fascinating. It is such a lovely idea; people reconnect with their loved ones and families, sitting down to enjoy unabashed comfort food and remember how much they care about each other. Many people have told me it is their favorite day of the year, and with good reason.

It also has a dark side, and it is hard for me to think about it without the complications of its history kicking in and confusing me. The story of the first Thanksgiving is attributed variously to the joy of the first good harvest brought in by the Pilgrims, after training in good agriculture from the Wampanoag; to the gratitude those first settlers felt towards their God who enabled them to survive and enjoy the fruits of the earth; to the triumph of a huge massacre of Native Americans, including the helpful Wampanoag, in which horrible atrocities were committed by the white settlers; and to the good thinking that led the first settlers to abandon their failed attempt at communist principles and embrace the beginnings of capitalism, thus enabling the crops to thrive and the harvest to prosper.

Everyone who takes a particular angle on this seems absolutely sure that they are right. They know the origins of the tradition, and they have a monopoly on the truth. I would have to go far deeper than I have into the documents of the time to be able to say who has more historical evidence on their side, but I am sure they all have some basis in fact. How the facts translate to today, how thanks are given now, how blessings are counted, how injustices are remembered and resolved, these are things that each person and family will think through to their own satisfaction.

The conflict of opinions here strikes me as being one of those golden opportunities to show children that sometimes different versions of the truth co-exist. Sometimes things are not just one way or just another. Sometimes it's important to listen to other people's versions of things and take them into account - even if you don't abandon your own version in the process. Sometimes other people's stories are worth looking into for the sake of truth and accuracy - not to make one person right and one person wrong, but to find out what is real. And sometimes it's there are seeds of reality in many places. Our children have a hard time with that concept sometimes, and take any disagreement with their own opinions very personally. It's good to find opportunities to help them see that people don't really have a monopoly on the truth, and finding out what the truth really is can be more satisfying than simply holding on to an attitude. Let's encourage them to consider shades of gray, and look for higher truth over that instinct to be the one who is right.

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