On Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday. Historically we have been fed a narrative of Pilgrims and Native Peoples sharing a meal of thanksgiving that overlooks the theft of land, the erasure of culture, and genocide. This challenges us to explore the history we have not been taught.

Beyond the historical context of the holiday, the act of thanksgiving unlinked from false narratives is a practice that enriches our lives. Gratitude for the big things and the little things in life invites us to maintain perspective in the face of so much brokenness in the world. It is something we should do on a regular basis, not just on one day.

Nevertheless, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. There is no need to worry about gifts or decorations. For me, it is a time to gather with family (natural or chosen) and/or friends (a Friendsgiving). It is a time of re-connecting, sharing favorite recipes, relaxing together and for most, time off from work routines. I know that the political divide in our country has further complicated this holiday. That messiness is undeniable, but I believe we can still find ways to gather and be grateful with those we love.

During this time of COVID isolation followed by a slow return to in-person gatherings after vaccines were made available, many of us have thought deeply about what our priorities are, including relationships: which ones are life-giving? Which are toxic? How do we move forward with this awareness?

We have deeply missed being in community. Last year many Thanksgiving meals were shared outdoors with blankets and outdoor heaters. However we observe this holiday, it reminds us of the need for gratitude and a recognition of the true history of a holiday that is a Day of Mourning for Native People and their allies. Maybe it could be called a Family Day, as suggested by Zenobia Jeffries Warfield in her essay “Don’t Trash Thanksgiving. Decolonize It.” A Family Day with an expansive understanding of what family means to each of us.

As I prepare to welcome my older daughter and sister-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner, along with brief visits from neighbors and friends, I recognize I have a lot of gratitude in my heart. A few things that inspire gratitude today are:

  • Knowing my family has been healthy during COVID and for over a year continues to have open Zoom room every Sunday evening for those who can gather;
  • Engaging in ministry with you that continues to be fulfilling and challenging. It invites me to continually reflect on why UUism matters in the world today. Those of you who engage in the life of the congregation and are putting your faith in action through your work and volunteerism inspire me.
  • Exploring the NC mountains that continue to offer solace and delight. Those of you who follow me on social media know they result in #gratitude posts of photos celebrating the beauty that I see around me.

As you gather with friends and family, I invite you to reflect on gratitude by exploring these questions offered by Diana Butler Bass in her essay, “The Turkey Hostage Situation.”

  • To whom or what are you grateful?
  • What challenges have you been grateful through?
  • Have you been grateful with others?
  • Where have you discovered gratitude within?
  • Has something in your life been changed by being grateful?
  • In what circumstances have you experienced thankfulness?

May gratitude be a regular practice in your life.

Rev. Claudia, Minister of Faith Development