Fort Report: Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2016
Fort Report

Last night, far away from the ornate halls of Congress, and a healthy distance from all of the nation’s post-election debate, I attended the dance and cheer performance at Northeast High School in Lincoln. A number of local schools participated. The Northeast Star Strutters were the first team to go. They were impressive! The young women clearly took great pride in their disciplined line dance, their precisely timed moves, and their team spirit. Inside the gym were hundreds of friends, parents, and grandparents cheering for everyone. How nice to see joyous young people, performing their best, with a happy community in support.  

When I wrote to you last week about the prevailing post-election mood in Washington, I mentioned the curiosity and sense of possibility with which many people regard the coming Donald Trump administration. I praised the spirit of unity that President-Elect Trump, Secretary of State Clinton, and President Obama all elevated, despite sharp disagreements. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone is experiencing optimism. Deep philosophical differences, coupled with a highly charged political atmosphere, have given rise to protests across the country, attempts to re-litigate the election, and even a push to eliminate the Electoral College, which, by the way, protects small states like Nebraska.

There’s an old saying: “Don’t discuss politics and religion at the dinner table.” But, in reality, when better to have lively conversations on these topics if it can be done with good intention, constructive understanding, and a little humor. Thanksgiving is a time to go deeper in the spirit of gratitude. Cynicism can give way at this special moment to mindfully pause, gratefully reflect on the grace we bring to each other, and contemplate the values that give us hope and solidarity as a people. This is not to dismiss differences, but to elevate that which binds us as an American family—and creates possibilities like the one in the high school gym last night.

The origin of Thanksgiving as a national holiday comes from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in the midst of the Civil War:

“…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union…”

While our modern sensibilities may not incline to such lofty language, nonetheless affirming the great gift of our nation through this holiday is a noble pursuit.  

Given these sentiments, I hesitate to say, “Now go buy some stuff.” However, an important event that reinforces the trend of intimate, local, and healthy community is Small Business Saturday. A few years back I called the credit card company responsible for the idea. After thanking him, the CEO told me that it was a young intern in the company who proposed it. Small is beautiful.  

This holiday and beyond, perhaps we can be open to surprise, listen to each other, and invite others to our perspective. In other words, a little family, a little turkey, a little nap, a little football, a little shopping, and yes, a little gratitude for our country. It’s all good.

Happy Thanksgiving.