When I "came into my consciousness" while in college, you know, the days of "I'm so deep and conscious" with poetry readings and hours-long sessions talking about "the man" and "the problem with Black people", I lost a lot of joy for life. Holidays went from being fun and exciting to being another "conscious" talking point. Thanksgiving? Think about what the pilgrims did to the Indians--how can we celebrate that? It's just an excuse for history to be mis-told and greedy Americans to gorge themselves while children in Africa starve to death. Christmas? Just a bunch of pagan rituals mashed together and an excuse for entitled Americans to buy tons of crap they don't need while people in Africa and other poor (Black and Brown) places around the world struggle to get clean water that won't make them sick.
I mean, these things are true. But there is a flip side.
The flip side is that when the holidays come, it seems, despite ourselves we are able to extend a hand of warmth and friendship to those around us. I feel the energy change. Neighbors become neighborly. Drivers actually yield to the folks who have the right of way. People wait patiently in line at the grocery store while the new cashier fumbles around asking for the key to void a transaction. People smile at each other. They're good to each other. Even if it just lasts a few weeks. Or until the liquor wears off.
And I love that.
I still don't celebrate holidays in the traditional sense. You won't catch me going crazy cooking food and inviting folks over. I don't give out gifts or sing carols. But I do give thanks on Thanksgiving in a different kind of way because I know that all over the country, in many different households people of all of colors, creeds, and ways of life are being thankful. They might not give thanks to Jesus. Or any kind of god. But they are reflecting on the things that make life beautiful and rich. Even if it is just a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day.
And for this I'm thankful. Because growing up we always read in the Bible to give thanks in all things. And I always asked God how could I do that? There are people starving, people suffering. But at this time in my life, I realize that indeed, in all things there is something to give thanks about. Something. There is such profound wisdom in the injunction to always give thanks.
The unmatched Nina Simone sang a song called "Ain't Got No" and it is so appropriate for this day.
Ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no skirts, ain't got no sweater
Ain't got no perfume, ain't got no beer
Ain't got no man
Ain't got no mother, ain't got no culture
Ain't got no friends, ain't got no schooling
Ain't got no love, ain't got no name
Ain't got no ticket, ain't got no token
Ain't got no God
What about God?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what about God?
Nobody can take away
I got my hair, I got my head
I got my brains, I got my ears
I got my eyes, I got my nose
I got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, I got my chin
I got my neck, I got my boobs
I got my heart, I got my soul
I got my back, I got my sex
I got my arms, I got my hands
I got my fingers, Got my legs
I got my feet, I got my toes
I got my liver, Got my blood
I've got life , I've got my freedom
I've got the life
And I'm gonna keep it
I've got the life
And nobody's gonna take it away
I've got life
Look, no matter what . . . really, no matter what there is something to give thanks for. I realized just how powerful giving thanks is when I stopped complaining about my allergies. In the midst of an allergy attack where I can hardly catch my breath, I'm sneezing 15-20 times, I can't see because my eyes are swollen and itchy . . . if I can stop to give a minute of thanks . . . even for something so ludicrous as an over-active immune system that takes regular environmental factors and thinks it's under attack--give thanks that it is functioning . . . well, perspective shifts immediately and what would have totally destroyed my day is a little hump I have to get over. I can focus on sending love and healing throughout my body. For me, giving thanks has to be powerful if it has given me an effective way to deal with allergies in a way that Claritin, Zyrtec, allergy shots and cursing have not.
There are many things I "ain't got" but so many things that I do have. And I'm grateful on this Thanksgiving Day and happy, I say damned joyful that I get the chance to be here to celebrate another Thanksgiving. I've got life!
So . . . Have a Thanksgiving full of giving thanks. Enjoy!