Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 24, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Even Your Political Enemies Deserve A Slice Of Thanksgiving Pie

New York Times Op-Ed:  Even Your Political Enemies Deserve a Slice of Pie, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3Just as some friends have inside jokes, my best friend, Woody, and I have an imaginary holiday. We call it Interdependence Day, an intentional play on Independence Day. The point is to recognize how we are all in this together. We mention it from time to time — things we hope to celebrate on Interdependence Day, people we want to honor on Interdependence Day, how we should get together for Interdependence Day. ...

I think that Thanksgiving, at its best, is something like Interdependence Day. The practice of gratitude asks us to acknowledge how our very existence depends on others. This yearly reminder of that reality is needed now more than ever.

Americans often cling to a myth of utter self-sufficiency. The hero is the self-made man. But if we are truly self-made, gratitude becomes impossible. In the 19th century, while visiting the United States, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed a tendency for Americans to forget their larger community and past. In the now-classic “Democracy in America,” he wrote that the American citizen he saw was “thrown back forever upon himself alone” and confined “entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”

Today, given our epidemic of loneliness and crisis of despair, Tocqueville’s observations seem prophetic. In the midst of convulsive national and international events, it’s easy to overlook the communities and institutions that make up a life: family, religious communities, neighbors, friends, work colleagues, the barista at the coffee shop we frequent, the teller at the bank, the postal worker, the garbage collector. But noticing the stuff of our lives, the gifts all of us receive in even a mundane day, is the font of gratitude.

Gratitude — like ingratitude — can be cultivated. Thankfulness is a daily practice that becomes a habit that becomes a disposition. To begin to develop this disposition, we have to intentionally notice our interdependence and how much we receive from others. All of us are here because someone sacrificed for us, birthed us, fed us and cared for us. None of us are self-made. In order to exercise the muscle of gratitude, we must live each day acknowledging how much we owe to others. ...

As I did last year, I’d like to offer some ways to cultivate gratitude. This year, I specifically want to suggest ways to notice and honor our interdependence.

Focus on all the unseen people. ...
Honor your political enemies and take a break from talk of politics. ... I’m also for intentionally carving out moments, days and weeks when we avoid talking about politics to make room for finding one another again beneath our political opinions and identities. Practicing gratitude does not demand rapturous delight in another. It sometimes looks merely like not mentioning Donald Trump and taking your crazy uncle a slice of pie.
Recognize our dependence on the earth. ...
Take up the “art of neighboring.” ...
Practice noticing. I will offer one explicitly religious practice that has spurred thankfulness in my life. In an ancient Christian prayer practice called examen, one takes intentional time, often in the evening, to look back and notice places of sorrow, pain, failure or a sense of God’s absence and lift up those moments to God. Then one notices those moments of joy, provision, goodness and a sense of God’s nearness in the day and gives thanks. This daily way of reviewing a day slowly teaches me to recognize, even on the very worst days, those small gifts of grace that carried me — a good cup of coffee amid chaos, friends checking in when they know I’m grieving or the simple comfort that, despite it all, I’m breathing and can still eat guacamole.

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Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren:

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