Thanksgiving in the United States is kind of a funny holiday considering the legacy of European immigrant invaders on the native American tribal populations and the entire mythology of the “first Thanksgiving” between the Pilgrim’s of Brownist English Dissenters at Plymouth Plantation and the Patuxet Native American Wampanoag tribe in British Colonial era of pre-United State North America as it makes all “nicey nice” for elementary school children with a relationship between the two groups that was probably tentative at best and only degraded from that point forward.
Nonetheless, days of giving thanks have existed in a number of cultures over the centuries and religion routinely played a cornerstone role in such celebrations as they tied to the end of droughts, long voyages and other hardships as well as bountiful harvests, successful hunts and of course, the winning of wars. Historically, days of thanks in North American pre-date our little semi-fictional suaree but were never formalized into a “national” holiday until the United States itself was at the brink of it’s own destruction when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26, 1863.
So here we are giving thanks despite of, or perhaps, in response to, all of this historical bloodletting and I’m reminded of last week’s post about the comforts of home in my thoughts. I was recently asked what values from my own childhood and family I would want to pass along to my children when the time comes. Reflecting on what those are provides enormous insights into all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for today because of the values my family helped instill in me over the years.
One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others – lewis carroll
It’s impossible to put together a definitive list of all the values or even rightfully determine who instilled them, but certain memories come to mind that I think I’d not only want to pass along but I am glad to remind myself of now in revisiting them to be thankful for:
My mom really instilled in me the importance of personal responsibility. My classic example with my mom is how to be responsible with money which she’s very calculated with. She never bought us extra things that our allowance should be saved up for if we really wanted them, didn’t give us advances on our allowance, etc. Beyond the money though, she made us take responsibility for our education too, if we failed that was a product of our own devices, she didn’t run to the teacher and negotiate extra credit or a better grade, she made us do that if that’s what we felt we deserved and if we couldn’t we had to accept what we had received and the punishments or extra work or whatever that came from it. She also didn’t let us just up and quit things, if we started we had to finish. There’s a fine line between being overly forceful and being stubbornly supportive for sure but she held that line well in my mind and had it not been for her instilling that sense of responsibility to complete things you start I would have quit drums, I would have quit Boy Scouts, I would have given up on some of my of the things I now look at and cherish.
My dad as much as he was a workahalic of sorts I remember quite vividly how much he participated in my life. He helped out the Boys & Girls Club swim team coach and even was a timer and parent ref at some of the meets. He helped me build pine wood derby cars and take on all kinds of Boy Scouts projects. He used to help the marching band put up the field lights and drove the instrument bus. He recorded my rock band’s practices on Saturdays and worked on rebuilding my Mustang. He took us fishing, went to concerts like Aerosmith and Metallica (and Black Sabbath one father’s day!)… and he still is an active part of adopted sister’s life too with soccer and tutoring and all her other activities. I think actively cultivating those mutual interests is probably an important part of being a good parent and something I’d take from him. There’s a lot of stupid things he did as family member too, for sure, but we all have those moments, the value I’d take from him the most though would be showing an interest and participating in people’s lives.
My grandfather on my dad’s side, but I’m not sure exactly how to explain this one but he was always active, always doing something, learning something, participating in life. I don’t really remember a time that my grandfather wasn’t doing something and that sense of motion I also think is important. My dad fondly quotes him regarding reading, “If someone is smart enough to write it, you should be smart enough to read it” and there was always books around. He either taught himself or got involved with organizations that exposed him to a pretty diverse group of things so anytime anyone ever needed anything my grandfather was kind of that jack-of-all-trades person that everyone in the family inevitably leaned on because it just seemed like he knew it. So like between being someone anyone can rely on in any kind of situation and never stopping learning and being active so that the opportunity to be that person exists would be it. His wife, my grandmother, was very much the same way, so she probably deserves ample credit here as well, but I think because I share more interests with grandpa there’s a special fondness in what that meant and how I continue to try and utilize it in my own life.
My sister’s way that she projects her values, she wears them on her sleeve and makes no apology for it. Sure, she’s stubborn sometimes to a fault doing things “her way” but she has no qualms unequivocally stating that up front, to teachers, to bosses, to friends and family. It’s not the things themselves it’s the fact that she owns them. This is what she believes and even if she’s the only person believing it shew owns that viewpoint without reservation or hesitation. I don’t know how she feels on the inside, if that causes conflict, but it exudes strength on the outside. She was ok with saying things about what she wanted that most people would be too afraid to admit out loud. The one that always stands out is when she stated, “I know I’m too selfish to have a kid right now, I’m not ready to share and take that responsibility yet.” She’s good with who she is and what she believes these days. It’s important to instill that it’s ok to be who you are and she’s an example of that. Shhhhhhhh don’t tell her I said somethign nice 🙂