Elementary Wisdom

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As we get ready for Thanksgiving and the meaning we attach to our meal…the gathering and togetherness and gratitude…we also can find ourselves marking time. Maybe we only eat a certain food on this day…or see certain people…or use certain china…or visit a certain home. Just this one day. And so from childhood to adulthood we go through variations of Thanksgiving rituals from simple to elaborate, while marking time, year to year. 

Recently, when Rie Godsey and I were visiting one of our partners (a day school in Northern Virginia), I saw a handmade poster that was titled at the top, “Traits we are working to grow in the Lower School.” It had colorful sticky notes calling out the traits and examples. Optimism. Perseverance. Flexibility. Resilience. Self-Awareness. Empathy. 

And I thought…wow…these are traits I (and grown-ups, everywhere) can work to grow, too. 

There is a lot of wisdom in what we learned and experienced as children. From traits to work on, to how Thanksgiving started.

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 loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. 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. 

So enjoy the family, the football, the day off, or the china you only use once a year, while remembering what you learned about this holiday (and traits you can work to grow) so long ago…the beauty of each human life, the gift of food and the hands that grow it, and the spirit of reconciliation.

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