Earlier this week, I was helping a friend with a focus group session. As Thanksgiving was only a few days away at this point and we were discussing food waste, it only seemed logical for the conversation to shortly dip that direction and discuss how wasteful and gluttonous of a holiday Thanksgiving can be in the States. An Italian man piped across from me and asked, “What’s that?”
To my recollection, I’ve never had to explain what Thanksgiving is to anyone. People in the United States obviously know, as it tends to be our marker for the “holiday season”. I didn’t know what to say. I started by explaining that there is a whitewashed version of the story – a dinner of unity between Natives and Pilgrims – and the real story – a day that celebrates the genocide of Indigenous Americans (if you’re unsure of what I’m referring to here, feel free to check out these resources on the origin of Thanksgiving: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/the-thanksgiving-truth_b_1105181.html ; http://video.teenvogue.com/watch/the-real-history-of-thanksgiving )
He laughed. He laughed at the irony of this holiday. A pit formed in my stomach – it’s a lot easier to lose focus on where Thanksgiving comes from when all of the other white people around me for the holiday (i.e. my family) aren’t, either.
The real origin of Thanksgiving is enough to lose any appetite, but I think using the day to be thankful is innocent enough. Rather than blindly celebrating Thanksgiving, I’m going to share a story in the spirit of gratitude from my time in Dublin.
I was lost (go figure), my phone was at 2% battery, I didn’t have a map, and it was 3 degrees and windy. I was desperately trying to find any street sign, proving to be surprisingly difficult in the dark, turning in circles with my hood and hat pulled firmly over my head. A man at the bus stop told me to go down this street, a poorly-lit, unlabeled straight, and it would take me right to the train station. About that…
After a few minutes of this, a kind Irish man noticed my not-so-subtle demeanor and, with his amazingly thick accent he asked me a question. It took me a while, but I realized he asked if he could help me.
While I tried to describe my confusing situation – “I am trying to find the nearest train station or bus to Blackrock (a province in Dublin) to meet a friend, but my phone is dying, I can’t call her, she doesn’t have texting, and I don’t have WiFi or data to contact her over the internet. I have no idea where I am” – he looked at me very perplexed and laughed at the ridiculousness of what I just frantically rambled. He inquired as to why I couldn’t contact her.
Apparently during this 5 minute long process (or what felt like 5 minutes, because it was frigid outside!), I didn’t hear him say I could use his phone. When I finally suggested with excitement “could I maybe use your phone!?”, he responded by asking me what “hillbilly place” I must come from because I, for the life of me, couldn’t understand half of what this slightly intoxicated man was saying.
Well, okay. Maybe that’s the case. But at least we were on the same page now. I was finally on my way. In the end, I ended up at the right place. He walked me to the nearest train station because, it so happens, he lives down the street. After giving me a hug, saying his good karma was done for today, he sent me on my way. He even offered to pay for my ticket, but I had that covered and thanked him graciously anyway.
This definitely wasn’t my ideal way of kicking off my first excursion on my own, but on the contrary, maybe it was ideal. Interactions like these demonstrate the beauty and kindness in the world, especially when it can be amazingly difficult to find through the bigotry, hate crimes, violence, and pain. So fellow Americans, I hope you spent time to educate yourself and acknowledge the origins of Thanksgiving while you showed gratitude for your friends, your family, and your privilege.
In practice, I hope you continue to show this holiday-induced gratitude on the day to day, perhaps even finding beauty when you’re lost, twisting and turning on a dark street in Dublin.
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<p>Hello folks! I'm Shana, a small-town tree-hugger with a big appetite for experiences, culture, and knowledge. I'm an undergrad student of Psychology and Gender Studies, yearning to understand my surroundings better each day. Welcome to my conglomeration of ideas and passions, all nourished by traveling, friends, spinach, and coffee.</p>