Let’s be clear: Thanksgiving is the best of all holidays. Just by virtue of its name it inspires us to consider what we have and not just what we want or “need.” We spend so much time thinking about and chasing what we perceive as missing, that we often lose sight of how much we already possess. “Its not having what you want, its wanting what you have. “ Sheryl Crow. Its family and friends without the stress of the mall parking lot and gift giving. Its not making a wish list for what we want, but expressing appreciation for all we have already been given. Its that sweet four-day weekend (except for the retail people for whom I have a special place and appreciation and to whom I think we all owe an extra helping of patience.) Its chips, pie, football, cranberries and an opportunity to come out from behind our phones, tablets and computers and express our humanity. I wish for nothing at Christmas, but this year I have four wishes on my Thanksgiving wish list.
My Thanksgiving Wish List.
First, I wish we would consider what we have. I recognize that for many it is not everything that they want and for some it is not very much materially, but my theory is that for most of us, there is someone else in the world with less or who has it tougher and if we spend a minute thinking, we can find many things for which we can be grateful. I feel lucky that my list is long. My wish for you is that you consider yours and find that your list is long too.
Second, (like President George Bush long ago), I wish for a kinder, gentler nation (and world). The 21st century and its modern communication marvels like text, Twitter, Facebook and blogs created an incredible opportunity for us to stay connected. The irony is it has done more to disconnect and to divide more broadly than it has to connect or bridge the gap in understanding. My wish is for that to change.
It is easy to sit behind a computer keyboard and issue hate and vitriol into cyberspace. It is easier still to demand immediacy to everything. In our daily pursuits, its become vogue to insist upon our own rightness, to disown, disrespect and dismiss those with whom we disagree and protest so loudly in demanding our own individual rights that I worry we have lost some sense of community. Have we? In many of our most divisive political debates in which intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable and rational people operate on diametrically opposed sides, it is the most extreme, unrelenting, least considered and least thoughtful positions that get the most attention thereby polarizing, and dividing us, further. As a lawyer, I seek to polarize the case. I endeavor to illustrate the clear and broad distinctions between my client’s position and that of our adversary. Life, however, is NOT litigation. Shredding each other’s ideas and beliefs via cyberspace and pushing only to be right, and not to be understood, I fear, leaves us no stronger or better as a society. It leaves us divided and isolated searching only for that which separates us, not for that which unites us. We all have divergent ideas, beliefs and lifestyles and individual expression and freedom are critical to, perhaps even the foundation of, any great society, but at some level we are all in this together.
Third, I wish we would all do a little to make the world better. Do our political leaders seek the best outcome for all or all the outcomes that serve them the best? President John F. Kennedy asked us to consider what we could do for our county, not just what our country could do for us. I wish we would consider in what small ways we could improve the tiny part of the world we touch generally, not just for ourselves. Would being kinder, more thoughtful and more patient in all we do solve the energy crisis, global warming or create more jobs, end terrorism or fix the middle-east? Probably not, but I wonder: could 6 billion people patiently and thoughtfully searching for understanding and thinking about what would benefit more than just themselves fix these problems? We cannot get to 6 billion if we do not start with one.
Finally, my wish is for people to be thankful for the opportunity to express their views, whatever they are, freely and without repercussion. We forget, because we were born into having that right, that it was not bestowed upon us without sacrifice by many who came before us. Do we not owe a debt of gratitude (“Thanks”-giving perhaps?) to the people who have sacrificed so much to obtain and then protect and preserve our right to express our divergent views? Would not the best tribute to those men and women, and the most apt expression of our appreciation for their sacrifice, be to express those views in a thoughtful and respectful manner? Would those who gave and give so much to protect our opportunity to say and do almost anything we wish appreciate it if we took our freedoms and opportunities so seriously that we respected, and considered, each other’s views so thoughtfully that we looked, not for unanimity, but for understanding?
I do not know the answers, just the questions, but this Thanksgiving I am wishing and hoping that we find them.