Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

The incoming First Family helps distribute food in Chicago, and visit with schoolchildren. Here are excerpts of a NY Daily News article about it, provided--along with these photos--by Al Rodgers (check out the rest of them): Clearly, those lining up for food hadn't been told they had an importangt guest helping out. this day. Many of them lit up; some shrieked with delight and hugged one or more of the Obamas. One elderly woman bowed; all seemed very appreciative. One and all were greeted with handshakes, hugs, and hearty "Happy Thanksgivings."
The daughters behaved like troopers for a half hour or so before the cold caught up with them, and they retired for a few minutes to warm up.
One sixty-something neighborhood resident named Daryel Namdan was asked how it felt to have Obama there. "It makes me feel very special," he said, before choking up.
Father Matt Eyerman of Saint Columbanus said the church feeds 450 to 500 every week. They start lining up at 5 a.m. to make sure they get a ticket to assure them food.

An Obama aide said the family has been to this particular food bank before and has pitched in here or elsewhere at least two other years.

Gratitude 2008

Last Thanksgiving, my post began by citing a recent poll that said "Americans enter the holiday season in a dark mood, with economic worries, security fears and a lack of confidence in government fueling growing pessimism."

When viewing the economy, the mood this year must be even darker. I sense real fear for what may happen in the upcoming shopping season and immediately afterwards-- fearing especially that this year will take the irony out of the name "Black Friday," given in recent years to the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the main shopping season of the year.

But forboding is not necessarily pessimism, and one of the major things Americans can be grateful for is our new President. Barack Obama won the presidency with a larger popular vote margin--now over 9 million votes--than any non-incumbent candidate ever. This is going to be a difficult year but we are going to be building a new future, and that's reason for optimism. Because we already have hope.

So it seems especially appropriate to also repeat more from last year's post-- some quotations from an article by Joanna Macy, called "Gratitude," originally published in the Buddhist magazine, Shambhala Sun:

"We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe--to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it--it is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world."

"Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.

"That our world is in crisis--to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question---in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom and courage, so that life itself can continue."

"The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It's like a setting or a channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what's going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It's a stance of the soul...."

"There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it is real, offers no blinders. On the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy, it can ground us, especially when we're scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done."

Happy Thanksgiving, America. (And, a little late, to Canada, too.)