Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gratitude on Thanksgiving Thursday

I've been thinking all day about how to speak of gratitude on this day. So many people do, what can I say that adds to that?

Someone shared with me this NYT article about French settlers who arrived in what is now Florida several generations ahead of the English pilgrims. Their relationships with the locals were friendly, and they developed commercial and familial relationships. They were there for religious freedom. The Spanish Catholics decided there should not be any of these "Lutherans" in the area, so the French settlers were massacred. This little blip in our North American history is news to me, and I'm sure, to many who were brought up on the mythic stories of the Pilgrims and the Natives and the First Thanksgiving.

This is a day to give thanks; it is a day to remember with gratitude, but it is also a day to include in that gratitude remembrance of those who suffered in the creation of this moment. It is a day to acknowledge the myth, recognize a sharper version of the truth, ask how I may do my part to make amends, as well as invoke the gratitude that is always a part of me but not always front and center.

A dark and bloody history of massacred and marginalized Natives allows me to be here in this land at this moment. Their descendants are now among the poorest in the United States. May they be granted the equity they deserve in the years to come.

A dark and bloody history of slavery allows this country to be as rich as it is currently. Many of their descendants are still kept in the lower rungs of the economic world, and are still discriminated against. May they be granted the equity they deserve in the years to come.

The karma of generations cannot be undone in a moment, or in a year, or in a presidency. It cannot be turned around by simply erasing discrimination. Even if that miraculously happened, descendants of oppression need support as they climb out of the pit of negative karma that's been heaped on them. The karma of the 'haves' is completely intertwined with the karma of the 'have-nots.' May those that have find the grace to right the wrongs of past and present generations.

Another person on that email list wrote eloquently of not liking gratitude lists, because when you are grateful for something, it implies you will not be grateful if it goes away, and your expectations are doomed to breed resentment. Instead he is left with "gratitude plain and simple, not for this or that, but as a process of living." It hadn't occurred to me listing of gratitude for things could be understood that way. I am thankful for Buddhism for that wisdom of "no expectations." I am grateful for this life, and I like the way he put it, this "process of living," and for me part of that is gratitude for the stuff of this life. It is here now, so I am enjoying it. Indeed, awareness that this could all change tomorrow deepens my gratitude for today.

May there be much for my country and the world to be thankful for in the year to come.


Anonymous said...

This is lovely, Heidi. Thanks for this post. Happy Belated Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Grateful for your friendship all these years...