When ‘Giving Thanks’ Struggles

I am experiencing an internalized state of mind this Thanksgiving. I’ve been looking at this page for an hour or so trying to figure out how to begin my annual Thanksgiving message for my blog. Occasionally the message rings strong and I publish it further, but today, in my head, deep in my head, I’m wondering what message I could possibly provide that suggests giving thanks.

Right now I am not in a thankful state of mind and it truly hurts my heart. I’m wondering why, though deep down I think the answer is quite apparent. The answer is in my head and it seems that’s where I want it to stay. Given that mindset, how can any message come out of this rant that offers any redeeming value toward the nature of giving thanks in my life? I think the solution can only be finding a way to remove myself from the equation and put that focus on the world around me.

In order to do that I need to step out of my head. I look outside my window to see a beautiful day. I can see winter coming, the changing of seasons, the new experiences that lay ahead, and I can blend all those moments into one and be thankful I am able to react to the wonder of our lives with a smile. That alone is possible. Alone it is that simple. Moving beyond the selfish and realizing the world around us is more important than ourselves is the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Sometimes, that belief is difficult to carry out. We can always find reasons to complain, to wonder, to speculate to such a degree that we no longer see the good in the world around us. But again, that is such a waste of valuable energy. Finding the ability to turn that around and be thankful without need for personal validation is the key. So here goes.

I am thankful today I can be with my family and we can celebrate another day of sharing time and conversation and fill our belly with delicious traditional foods. I am thankful I live in a world where I can find immediate freedom walking out my front door without worry of impingement upon my peace of mind. I am thankful to have shelter, to know compassion, to recognize love, to be alive. I am thankful that rather than focus upon the immediacy of my life, I can view a world outside that does allow everyone to be included, that love is a common denominator in a society that sometimes forgets the meaning of caring for one another. I am thankful that I have the ability to try.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in a position to celebrate this holiday. Peace.

 

Advertisements

My America (written for contest)

To understand, My America, I wanted to embody a lifetime of experience that could speak directly to my concept of living as a white man in the Midwest. I was fortunate to grow up with conscientious siblings all of whom were driven by values instilled by parents just trying to keep up with the norms of their day. My folks raised five kids, most of whom came of age in the sixties, experiencing the death of JFK, RFK, Shirley Chisolm running for President, the assassinations of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., and countless other life changing events wrapped around the atrocities of the Vietnam War. My sad claim to fame was that in 1972, Kent State had occurred on my birthday. These events all of them tragic had a huge impact on who I am today.

 

I love America, I truly do, I am a patriot by all accounts, thankful for my freedom and the many men and women that sacrificed their lives to help maintain our free society. However, there are times when I am made physically sick by the actions of many, all of whom could find more peace in their lives by just opening their eyes. There is a systemic method of discrimination in our society that permeates every aspect of our lives. Interestingly, as a white person in this time, it seems I would be just fine if I ignored everything around me that is hostile or demeaning to my way of life. I wouldn’t have to deal with it because I am of the color of skin that these realities do not impede. For me personally, that is a problem, it always has been and is resultant in my writing this story.

 

When I was a young boy, I took a trip to New York with my family. I was 12 years old. One night a group of us went to the corner grocery store. I noticed a number of black kids playing about outside the store, and I asked the person I was with if they knew any of them, as the market was only a couple blocks from their home. They immediately responded with, “I don’t mess with any (n-word).” It was at that moment I was struck with fear. I had never felt this way, I didn’t know how to feel. I was raised in the whitest of white America in the Midwest and had never experienced any aspect of the African-American culture, beyond my readings about MLK and X, and my mother’s insistence we recognize authors of color in all of our studies. I was scared for the first time in my life of something I had no control over, I felt threatened without knowing why. It wasn’t until the next day that I could understand my fear was based upon the person I was with and not the people at the corner store who left me feeling curious.

 

The next morning our family was given an auto tour of Manhattan and several surrounding Burroughs including Harlem. As we drove past The Cotton Club and I noticed the streets were filled with black people, I said emphatically to my mother, “That’s who I saw last night mom, black people.”

 

She looked out to the gatherings of people going about their morning, turned to me, and provided me a life changing suggestion. “Thom, those aren’t black people you’re seeing, those are people,” and then she smiled and continued to finish her Tareyton cigarette, like Katherine Hepburn standing with a foggy backdrop, showing logical purpose.

 

Fast forward 30 years, and I am a teacher in a high school classroom. I finish my licensure and am fortunate to be given my first theatre program. During that summer, while working on the coming year, I scour multi-cultural scripts, the only one I know firsthand is Raisin in the Sun, and I keep it on my shelf for future consideration. I can’t find anything I like or understand. I’m having a hard time maintaining my goal of becoming the ‘multi-cultural teacher of the year’ if all I can produce are mainstream script ideas. I call a friend at a local high school with a unique demographic and ask for her suggestions.

 

She states calmly, “I’ve never used a multicultural script.” And I think about that for a moment, and I’m suddenly thrown off wondering how that could be possible. When I asked her why not, her response was my first lesson of a new cultural awareness that I suddenly realized had nothing to do with race and more to do with talent.

 

“I cast only the right person for the character or role,” she stated, and I was in the moment humbled. I suddenly felt like a racist, because rather than focusing on the content, I was centering my aim upon the color of every students’ skin that would eventually audition to be on my stage. Years later that lesson echoes in my mind every time I hold an audition. However, I wish that solution could remain that easy.

 

In today’s world there is a greater need to understand diversity and how it works in our society. Gone are the days of suggesting that issues only apply to one minority. They apply to everyone, and right now as I write this I am questioning my own ability to be an open minded citizen of America that recognizes and respects every culture that I have the opportunity to encounter in my daily life. It’s not easy, but I didn’t come here to whine.

 

In recognizing My America I try to look to the future, given the present turn of events since our last election. We are in the middle of a crisis, that one group of people would suggest is overstated, while another group will cry out, ‘when will it ever be enough?’ Today, my focus is on racism and how it permeates our society to a greater level than even I was kept sheltered from in my formative years, beyond the television and books. Through my family’s eyes, I did experience Civil Rights and I did value its importance on our society. Today it seems all those battles in the 60’s have been summarily dismissed and we are faced with re-tooling our ability to open our minds to an incredibly diverse and beautiful world of people.

 

I don’t have the answers, but I do certainly have the passion and that desire and hope remains with me in every waking moment. My dreams are what fuel an idealism that allows the world to imagine being one.

 

In the words of John Lennon and Malcolm X, with liberties to merge ideas:

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the sixties, that’s his problem (Lennon) … I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation” (Malcolm X).

When Once We Stood Together

Today I remember then,

only when

I cannot quite comprehend.

I know it was with intrigue

I wondered about time,

was this perhaps the proper sign.

I would look to wonder

each new design

a telling of a simple future.

Seems we all have a memory

whereby we might all recall

sweet passion was most kind.

We walked together as one,

hoping for the same,

a recognition of love.

Seemed rather simple at the time,

we all wanted it,

we all shouted the words.

 

Freedom seemed attractive,

easily attainable,

put a smile on all of our –

insecurities stepped in the way,

began to sway

the intelligent soul

toward shutting their door

no one allowed inside

any more, none anymore

we cannot help put pity

upon those we left behind.

 

Words are different now,

they speak quickly,

loud,

their tone misunderstood

or simply not concerned.

Sharply stated.

Rude consequences,

never really apply.

Today

instead of a polite retort,

we rather quickly

use a firearm …

the natural way they say

if a conceal and carry

is the way to go.

 

When once we stood together,

now we elude society

steady in the drum,

the lasting hypocrisy.

 

 

A Diamond

When thoughts of rocks,

come to play,

the mind is alluring,

easily left to sway

the doubts,

the indecisions,

the valued circumstance,

of shared precisions.

 

The cut of a diamond,

meant to draw blood,

perhaps never seen,

never heard,

yet known

by the fractured elements

of delight in an eye,

the beholder,

the judgment,

the reality of one,

becomes the circumstance

of another.

 

We stood inside a mini-mall

watched the world evolve,

we laughed

qualified are sanity

that lasts.

We knew our world

didn’t need the blood of a diamond,

for it is a world far beyond

the material norm.

 

Yet today, sitting in offices,

there seems aplenty,

of ignorance and entitlement.

 

The crush of a diamond,

the cut of a purity in glass,

the reality in the mirror,

won’t ever extinguish the glare.

If In Our Quiet Moments

If not for the power of greed,

Have I been a loose cannon of need.

 

If only while our world crumbles beyond,

We still might use laughter to carry on.

 

If well before the dawn of new civilization,

Would we still use ignorance to define a nation.

 

If while this short time we have to persevere

Could our lives be simpler, to wish less severe.

 

If I might all of my mistakes be solemnly heard,

Maybe then peace of mind seem far less absurd.

 

If by my neighbors hand I reach to embrace,

A lovely reality of knowing His my only Grace.

 

If when every soul around me were to smile,

Could we live and carry on strong a sweet mile.

 

If while I wonder the words my mind does employ

Might have value to the eyes and ears to offer joy.

 

Then might I breathe a smooth discourse in life

All of which lends reprieve to the burden of strife.

I Have These Moments …

I forget, I react, I overload,

Symptomatic of a torn life I suppose.

 

A lot of years ago I wouldn’t imagine,

The powerful grip this past might hold.

 

I’ve taught the voices of the future,

Passed on wisdoms and second nature.

 

Though I suppose from the glass you see,

I’m a regular dude, capable of many things.

 

Yet I’m always alone,

Wondering just where is it the light is shone.

 

I walk inside a myriad of speculation,

Always waiting for the cannon to explode.

 

I wonder about the rest of my kind of person,

Do we all contain ourselves rather than lose it.

 

I can’t stand to hurt your feelings, anyone at all,

It grieves me to know that any pain is of my hand.

 

Once in a while life almost seems rather perfect,

The trees, the evening owl, sunsets and sweet breeze.

 

I wish that all of life could hold such magic,

The sort of spellbound love we do so cherish.

 

I would travel the world to find a solution,

Then I realize they are right here next to us all

 

I have these moments I can’t find where to fall

I have these moments I cannot fathom the fall.