Fear, Thanksgiving, Community

There is tragedy happening all over the world at this time. We mourn it all and Paris represents that whole. It is echoing the shared pain of violence throughout the world. If we stood vigil for each and every tragedy, we would never sleep. We weep for every life, inadvertently or deliberately marred by senseless violence. Paris has shown that enough is enough. A collective WE has had enough. We are linking together across the world, mixing our tears, and our voice. WE are getting angrier…and I believe WE are beginning to stand our common ground together.

“Us” vs. “Them”

We are living by fear, terrified that we are next on their list. We fear the refugees who are seeking refuge away from the terror and violence. We are afraid of what we don’t know, what we can’t name, who we can’t see. I get it. I truly do. Terrorist attacks set off our fundamental gut reaction: When threatened, we draw clear lines between “us” and “them.” But we exaggerate who exactly “they” are and innocents get caught up in the crossfire of our fear. We are uncertain of borders and boundaries, which drives our fear of “them.”

Our emotions rule and logic is met with skepticism and disbelief. We simply can’t be logical when we’re emotional. But imagine the refugees, the Muslims, the Syrians, our neighbors, our countries as human. Look into their eyes. Hear their stories and their voices. It is not “us” versus “them,” for we are “them.” They deserve our empathy, our help, our refuge. We were all once refugees. We all came from somewhere else at some point in time.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is coming soon. Do you remember how it started? Do you know the true meaning of Thanksgiving? The “first Thanksgiving,” was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the lost of 46 of their original 102 colonists. Before anchoring at Plymouth Rock and disembarking to explore the territory, the pilgrims devised the “Mayflower Compact.” This was to serve as the basis for governing their new colony, where all would have the freedom to worship God as they chose. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

It is a day dedicated to giving thanks to everything we usually take for granted. It is the expression of gratitude. The true meaning of Thanksgiving should not end after a prayer or a few seconds of meditation devoted to thanks.  The Holiday of Thanksgiving has broader significance.  Thanksgiving is also a call to action. It is important for us to remember that the word thanksgiving is composed of two words: thanks and giving.  Through the Holiday of Thanksgiving we are reminded to give thanks and to share and give. The Holiday reminds us to share our economic and material wealth, and to share also our time and talents with other people who could use our help.  In terms of thought and deed, the Holiday of Thanksgiving gives us an enriched perspective on the abundance in our lives.

We Refugees by Benjamin Zephaniah
I come from a musical place
Where they shoot me for my song
And my brother has been tortured
By my brother in my land.
I come from a beautiful place
Where they hate my shade of skin
They don’t like the way I pray
And they ban free poetry.
I come from a beautiful place
Where girls cannot go to school
There you are told what to believe
And even young boys must grow beards.
I come from a great old forest
I think it is now a field
And the people I once knew
Are not there now.
We can all be refugees
Nobody is safe,
All it takes is a mad leader
Or no rain to bring forth food,
We can all be refugees
We can all be told to go,
We can be hated by someone
For being someone.
I come from a beautiful place
Where the valley floods each year
And each year the hurricane tells us
That we must keep moving on.
I come from an ancient place
All my family were born there
And I would like to go there
But I really want to live.
I come from a sunny, sandy place
Where tourists go to darken skin
And dealers like to sell guns there
I just can’t tell you what’s the price.
I am told I have no country now
I am told I am a lie
I am told that modern history books
May forget my name.
We can all be refugees
Sometimes it only takes a day,
Sometimes it only takes a handshake
Or a paper that is signed.
We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared,
Nobody’s here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.

Community

The point of wine at a meal, or anytime, is relationship, building communities, partaking together, uniting as a community. It doesn’t matter what kind of wine you choose for Thanksgiving dinner, although there are plenty of recommendations. What is important is the friends, family, strangers…community…that gathers together to partake of the fellowship with each other, regardless of our backgrounds, our religions, our history. We gather in spite of our fears and emotions to break bread as “one.” During this tumultuous time in our world, I hope you welcome others with open arms to your table, that you offer refuge to those seeking safety, that you take a moment and truly give thanks for each other and embrace us all as human, in all our greatness and filthiness.

Let go of fear. See the beauty and need in front of you. Remember, “We all came here from somewhere.”

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