The temptation on Thanksgiving is to fret over the external things.
Are all the assorted family members and friends in their correct places? Are they entertained, or at least well-fed? Are discussions being steered clear of known land mines?
Speaking of food, is the spread sufficient? Does it live up to your grandmother’s grand culinary accomplishments of past years?
Are you properly prepared for Black Friday deals? Do you know when the stores with the best sales are opening? Do you have proper folding chairs for sitting in line?
As troubling as all of these worries may be, as much as we may spend hours dwelling on them in the lead up to this holiday, they are also all utterly irrelevant to why we celebrate. Thanksgiving is about commemorating our common bonds, appreciating all we have been given, and moving ahead together.
Our common conversation as Americans has too often focused on all that we don’t have. For those on the right, it’s about a shrinking space in the cultural conversation, about economic gaps created by global trade, about benefits going to the undeserving. For those on the left, it’s about lack of political power, about erratic leadership, about a changing climate and denial of diversity. Both sides define themselves, by and large, by what they don’t have.
This season, beyond avoiding political arguments at the dinner table, let’s aim to celebrate all that we share. We share cities, towns, faiths and institutions. We share a country of tremendous opportunity and resources, a place where individual initiative still matters. We share a vibrant, ever-renewing popular culture. We share ourselves, our very presences in this representative democracy.
It has been said that inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist. On this page, we have sometimes been tempted to take a cynical outlook. There is indeed much to be disappointed by in this state, nation and world.
And yet, we trust that our idealism — and that of our community — still burns brightly. All it takes to flare up again is a reason to hope and grow. This season, let’s commit to avoiding the distractions, healing our civic wounds and believing that we can all be the best versions of ourselves.
That would truly be a Thanksgiving to remember.