Friday, November 29, 2013

last but not least

Thanksgiving is, quite literally, a foreign concept to the French. The same goes for most Europeans and the British. So, this past week has been spent explaining the holiday to my colleagues :) and I really hope I did it justice. Not just the mythical story per se—Pilgrims, poor harvest, generous Native Americans, and a idyllic shared feast—but what Thanksgiving is really all about.
{Belleville street art - Paris, France}
Though shamelessly commercialized, each year I am still touched at how much my favorite holiday encourages giving and gratitude as it should. And as I pondered my “thankful list” yesterday, it occurred to me I may never understand its breadth. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and setbacks, but in the grand scheme of life, I've suffered very little. Then I read this New York Times article:
“While we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline, but also by an inextricable mix of luck, biography, brain chemistry and genetics.”
This compassion (or lack thereof) Nicholas Kristof describes is “a mark of civilization” unfortunately being lost in the States. On a policy level, it’s a concept we could borrow from our European neighbors; Scandinavian countries especially: "modern social democratic states where wealth is more evenly distributed, education is typically free up through university, and the social safety net allows women to comfortably work and raise a family.” As individuals, we could afford to be kinder, too. I urge you to read this viral essay. So much of the reality she speaks of is chilling, but “we will never feel hopeful," struck me especially. I immediately and without intention thought to the plague of endless possibilities that too often keep me up at night with anxiety. Are they not what lets me be grateful and give? They should be. If nothing else then for the fact that expressions of gratitude make us feel socially valued. And everyone deserves at least that much. Post-Thanksgiving food for thought, I suppose. Hope your holiday was happy and full :).


Penny for your thoughts...