Monday, November 26, 2012

With Thanks

On Thanksgiving morning, my community and I attended Mass at the Fort Defiance Church, established by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s a small church to begin with, and being a weekday and a holiday, there were not very many people attending. We could have easily spread out through the church, but we chose to sit in one pew altogether, filling the entire thing. For someone on the outside looking in, they might think we looked funny; why crowd together when you can easily spread out? For us though, cramming together was an act of solidarity. We rarely attend church altogether for myriad reasons: conflict schedules, different times, only four of seven are Catholic, etc. But, Thanksgiving is a special day, a time to give thanks in a contemplative way. At least, in my opinion.

What always strikes me as humorous around Thanksgiving is that everyone becomes consumed with gratefulness, but as the effects of food coma from dinner and a blissful break from work fade, so it seems, does the need to be thankful. Shouldn’t we be grateful all the time? For things both large and small? Approaching four months on the reservation I have been contemplating this very aspect. What am I grateful for? For a week off of school or a mini roadtrip with friends? The answer is both, but I am also grateful for the rain, which falls so infrequently out here, and the Rez dogs who quickly become familiar partners. For my community, even though we sometimes disagree and for my school although it is sometimes stressful.
Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a National holiday during his presidency. I wonder what he would think of what it has become today, with salesmen pitching their products at discounted rates and people stomaching obligatory food to nap and race others for sales at midnight. Everyday should be another day for Thanksgiving for so many things. As a history teacher, I can appreciate the thought behind it. We remember the first Thanksgiving where two very diverse communities came together to celebrate success and life, and the hope of building a future together. We celebrate what America is and what it still has potential to become. And, we should celebrate each other, the good and bad, happy and sad, remembering that we are all part of a larger community to come. 

After Mass, my community and I went to the jail in Window Rock and served them Thanksgiving dinner, all of which had been donated by members of the local and church community. This was the second time I had been to the jail, and the men there love to hear my roommate Allison and I sing. This was the first time all seven of us had been the jail, and was interesting to serve the men and get to talk to them and also to sing with them for a while. Part of me wants to know why there are in jail, but a larger part of me realizes that many of these men are so lonely and longing for company that I feel safe and content walking in and talking, praying, singing with them. 

Next month, we will sing Christmas carols and talk some more, laugh some more. Simply being in community with each other and with the inmates, once more, celebrating the Thanksgiving of each other.

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