To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
—William Blake, “To See a World…”
I’ve never had strong feelings about Thanksgiving. It’s not a religious feast day, so the rituals associated with it are comforting more than common. The day begins with Mass, taking up a whole pew with my siblings and parents, before we eat breakfast but not lunch, go over to one of my aunt and uncle’s house around 4 p.m., socialize and drink with my cousins, eat dinner, go home happy, and sleep soundly.
I am one of 18 cousins on my mom’s side. I’m so used to being one of the mob that it’s taken the realization that I won’t be one of the kids for much longer to propel me firmly into this season of gratefulness. In about a month, I’m getting married to a marvelous man who is going to whisk me away for a grand adventure wherever he gets his residency in a couple months. And that will only be the beginning! But it’s also an end to morning mass with my family taking up the whole pew, and breakfast but no lunch, and driving over to a relative’s house and salivating into our beers before the food is served. And while I do not regret passing into the next phase, I also do not relish it.
Now, I know you’re not reading this piece because you’re remotely interested in my personal life. Give me Burke and Kirk!, the readers roar. What did Alexander Solzhenitsyn say on the subject? I heard something about Benjamin Franklin wanting Turkeys to be our national bird…
My dear readers! Friends! I write this post to distract you. I write this post to remind you: this is not about conservatives having the monopoly on good stuffing recipes (still waiting on George Nash’s Guide To Thanksgiving And Other Holidays I’m Glad I’m Conservative to be published) or awesomely well-structured sentences about the importance of community and familial ties. I write this post to show you how this imaginative conservative celebrates and loves that our country spends an entire day proving just that: how important our community and family ties are, and the need to love one another, all the while finding a path to goodness.
|My family. So grateful for all of them!|
It does not take much to see the Good in the world, if you are seeking it. Yesterday at the grocery store, the donations for Hurricane Sandy victims and the Food Bank were overwhelming. The little kids I nanny made cards for their family members, having me write down why they love them and are grateful for them. Family members of mine are flying to Ireland to visit my cousin, who is studying over there, to celebrate with him. My fiance’s family is driving 9 hours to Iowa to celebrate with his uncles, his sister and brother-in-law. I am grateful that he is able to spend his last unmarried Thanksgiving with them.
And in the macro-view of the world, I am grateful that I am not being drone bombed. I am grateful that I do not worry about car bombs. I am grateful that I am not easily swayed and cannot be bought by promises. I am glad my definition of freedom does not involve the phrase “free stuff” or the subjugation of other human beings. I am grateful that, no matter who is elected, I am still me. I am not a number, I am not disposable, and I am valued, if only as a citizen and voter.
You see, there are two parts to this Thursday: giving to others, and giving thanks. For all the praise we owe to God, our Creator and Lord, we should show that gratitude by passing it on to others. And while I do not suppose the world can be fixed anymore than man can “un-fall” from the Garden, I do think what St. John of the Cross said to be truth: “God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.”
Yes! God! God passes through the world. God is in every person, even the man on the street waving the “Why Lie? I Want Beer!” sign at me. People do not like Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter for that matter!) because of its commercialization and promises of a delicious feast if you listen to Martha. The reason people like these holidays is because people are reminded of goodness. They aspire to be nicer. They get together with family, they write cards to friends. They want more, because we are made for more. We share a common humanity with the people around us and Jesus, the Word made flesh.
This Thanksgiving, give people hugs. Don’t avoid eye contact with the homeless people. Say hello to your fellow workers and tip your waiter. Stay married to your spouse, support your children, and love all your neighbors. Really and truly: learn to love, starting by listening to people who talk to you, even if they annoy you. Pray for people you dislike, especially the vague dislike of ideological differences. There is much to be overcome, and we must look to Christ for all of it. Caritas - this is what we can give and be thankful for, and it is what all of us have more to share.
And in the spirit of giving, I leave you with some James Joyce, excerpted from ‘Portrait of a Young Man as an Artist’:
And thanks be to God, Johnny, said Mr Dedalus, that we lived so long and did so little harm.
But did so much good, Simon, said the little old man gravely. Thanks be to God we lived so long and did so much good.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, dear readers.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.