Closing Our Eyes After Thanksgiving And Seeing With Our Hearts, Instead

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day was Thursday.

But the calendar's declaration doesn't automatically push the “thanksgiving” button in anyone's heart. November 24 could have been a very bad day for some people, so wounding with pain or illness and sorrow that no amount of turkey and gravy could have made it easier to swallow, that no amount of dressing could dress up.

There are thousands of recipes for Thanksgiving Day but 99 percent of our days are entirely about what we do with the leftovers.

For those in pain or illness and sorrow, please know that regardless of what the mirror shows, you are not standing alone.

Many kneel with you.

It is deeply ironic, and singularly instructive (if we embrace the lesson), that Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday in the middle of our Civil War that began 150 years ago. But when the biggest reasons to give thanks seem shot apart we can sometimes focus with greater accuracy on the smaller reasons that, despite their apparent size, are the reasons that remain indestructible and lead our understanding to deeper levels of discernment.

The official holiday does focus our attention on blessings and feelings of thankfulness. It reminds us there is such a thing as giving thanks and to do so collectively as a nation gets us all facing more or less in the same direction, if just for a day. With such divisiveness in Washington as we approach another presidential election, that's not a bad thing.

Many people, meanwhile, had civil wars going on around them or inside them on Thursday, even as they reached for the cranberry sauce. We hope those civil wars find their own Appomattox.

Giving thanks often involves prayer, assembling some words that try to scratch beneath the surface of feelings. The thought of everyone across the United States of America closing their eyes and speaking words of thanks-Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, and Independents-conjures some feelings of thankfulness all by itself.

Thinking of everyone closing their eyes, with or without words of thanks, also conjures feelings of hopefulness. When we close our eyes we become blind to differences.

We become blind to polls that tell us how we feel about each other.

Blind to ratings that tell us what we're watching while someone else is tuned attentively to another channel.

We become blind to mirrors that reflect only the tiniest sliver of who we truly are, scratching the surface of a lifetime like a diamond on a sea of glass.

When we look at ourselves in the mirror we know how much more there is behind our eyes, beneath our skin. Watch yourself say a few words to your reflection and you know how those few words are not even the tip of your autobiographical iceberg.

Sometimes we forget how easy it is to look at someone else and judge them on the surface of their own appearance and a handful of words, like judging how blue the sky might be at midnight after we've left our own sun behind us to create the darkness.

Remember that our national Thanksgiving Day originated from a feast day of thanks shared between European colonists and Native Americans, people separated by a chasm of cultural differences that eventually saw the former overwhelm and all but obliterate the latter. For that day, at least, their differences mattered so much less and their shared humanity mattered so much more.

When we find ourselves in prayer during these days after Thanksgiving, let us close our eyes and, when we finish with our words, may we open our eyes again and try looking at the world around us with open hearts and minds instead.

And that includes the way we see our own reflection and our own lives.

-JKW-