Of course, we begin with the family and sitting at the Thanksgiving table with my wife, children, son-in-law, grandchildren, nephew and his wife and his child is enough to give thanks for. Of course, the grandchildren take center stage and with 5-year-old Zadie at new astounding levels of “real-kid” skills and comments and 1 ½ year-old Malik exhibiting some male bonding with his Pop-pop and right on the edge of the speaking code, it just doesn’t get better than this. Three glorious days ahead, tantrums and time-outs most likely to come (none yet!), but still, it is simply one of the greatest pleasures of the approaching Golden Years (or am I here?).
But in the hand-holding go-around at the table, I went beyond the family to thank a few of the hundreds of Americans I feel proud to claim as fellow citizens in this time of international shame. Those who speak out and speak eloquently and speak on behalf of the human spirit in all its myriad forms. Writers, poets, musicians, educators, even a few athletes and politicians! Folks like Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Minniejean Brown-Trickey, Ta Nahesi Coates, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Michael Meade, Colin Kaepernick, Elizabeth Warren and so many more.
Had I gone through the whole list, the food would have gotten cold. And I could have gone on with all the folks I know doing small acts of kindness and bravery. Things like bringing up their children with love and respect after having been abused or neglected by their parents. That courageous decision to say, “This stops here,” and build a life around that commitment to break the cycle of hurt. Things like committing themselves wholly to the exacting discipline of their art or the endless work of inspired teaching without complaint about their pitiful hourly wage. The “big names” we will always have and we need them to lead and inspire, but we need to tread lightly in our adoration and follow the Hopi idea: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
And never more urgently than now. No waiting for the Messiah or the next MLK or Che Guevara or Steph Curry sinking the 3-pointers of the moral universe. It’s each of us gathered around the Thanksgiving table with friends and family who will be needed to shoulder our fair weight of this spinning globe on our collective shoulders. Size matters less than consistency and commitment. We start from who we are and where we are and next Thanksgiving, hope to gather again and pause to thank each other for our efforts.
But for now, please pass the gravy.