By True Places Magazine Staff Writers
Photo: Marian Anderson Theater Group outdoor performance of Hamilton, Thanksgiving week 2021
Gratitude’s a funny thing. It’s powerful, and profound, and quite literally asks us to count our blessings. It makes us feel good to acknowledge the things and people that are important in our lives. And it makes those people feel good to be acknowledged. It’s a win-win, and yet many of us need rituals and times and plans and schedules and sometimes even a whole lot of stress to simply stop and give thanks. To simply stop.
Thanksgiving, in a way, feels out of time. It’s on a Thursday, not a weekend. It calls for dinner at really a rather odd time. It’s a holiday, but an entirely secular one, a rare inclusive national event flexible enough to allow us to engage with its deeply complicated history while celebrating coming together. Thanksgiving is not just about reflecting and showing appreciation, but doing it collectively. Setting aside time and creating space to offer gratitude not just privately but to and with those around us.
There are a lot of moments in life and a lot of practices – religious, secular, and in the arena of health and wellness – that encourage gratitude and self-reflection. Those are lovely, and for those from whom they work, extremely powerful. Thanksgiving is different. It’s not about personal reflection and quiet acknowledgment. It’s explicitly – and structurally, and beautifully – public. It’s a time out of time that encourages Americans to honor past moments of joining together by coming together in the present and sharing space, sharing sustenance, sharing support. It’s a chance, for those who want it, to reimagine what it means to pause within time and reach across space to inhabit these spaces together.
This Thanksgiving, we share special reverence for the act of coming together. The pandemic has shown us that the simple act of being with one another is not always so simple. But it has also shown us that we have enormous resilience and creativity and we will find ways to gather. It may be outside; it may be cold; it may include blankets and chairs and firepits and masks and meals on laps. It may include phone calls and zoom calls and waving from a distance. But it will always include gratitude and gathering, in some way or other. This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the moments, big and small. And we give thanks, with renewed appreciation and reflection and a sense of loss and mourning and recovery, for the mere act of being together.