Thanksgiving Day is our great chance to wake up and give more importance to those bonds that unite us than to ideologies dividing us.

Dear Relatives and Friends,

At nighttime, the sky above the vast Argentinean plains from which i’m sending you this Thanksgiving message looks like the dark bright-starred dome so typical of this season. But by day, the summer sky of the southern hemisphere does not go at all with my ideal image of Thanksgiving. This has a parallel on a different level. How can our dreams of a perfect Thanksgiving stand up to the harsh reality of daily life? Is there anything left in our deeply divided society that all of us can still celebrate together?

When i tried to actually answer this rhetorical question, my own answer surprised me. I remembered that we can still celebrate people — countless people. Doctors, nurses, teachers, artists came to my mind. I kept thinking of more people, our countless hidden helpers behind the scenes: dishwashers in restaurants, people sweating in hospital laundries or driving school buses, people behind checkout counters, police and cleaning crews in office buildings doing their work while i sleep. And above all, those countless people who bravely smile and make others smile.

While we cannot celebrate the world situation, the people of this world still deserve that we unite to celebrate them. “Unite” is the decisive word. Grateful celebration brings us together and unites us.

Aren’t we grateful to street cleaners, regardless of their political views? To garbage collectors, road maintenance workers, air traffic controllers, regardless of their sexual persuasion or religious conviction? Or do you ask to what political party the lifeguard belongs who keeps your child safe? Gratefulness establishes bonds of human respect stronger than all other considerations. Thanksgiving Day is our great chance to wake up and give more importance to those bonds that unite us than to ideologies dividing us; to wake up to how trifling the convictions that divide us are, compared to the challenges we can only tackle together; to wake up and commit ourselves to act accordingly.

But what will all this practically mean in daily living? Just to be awake to it and to remember it will make a difference in how we deal with people. I can only share a few ideas I’m trying to put into practice. To show all the more respect for other human beings, the more different they seem to be from me. To think of all we have in common, when i’m amazed at how differently from me others can manage to think. To find something good to say about others, the moment i want to say something bad. (A Brother practiced that in the monastery and the others tried to trick him: “And what do you say of the devil?” they asked. “Well,” he answered, “you have to give him credit, he’s industrious.”) That’s another thing we can do: Keep clearly in mind what divides us and yet bridge the dividing gap with a smile.

It is with a big smile at myself – Giver of Good Advice – that i am sending you my good wishes for a Thanksgiving celebration that will wake us up to that realm beyond divisions where all of us — truly all of us — can gratefully celebrate together.

Your brother David

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

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Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.