Americans like to give thanks at their Thanksgiving dinner. As an atheist, this is sometimes troubling: Who are you thanking? Why do you deserve your good fortunes? Does someone else not deserve what you have? The mantra that “working hard” gets you what you “deserve” suggests that those with less privilege or a less fortunate background didn’t work hard. Or they didn’t fight against a system that failed them from the beginning, which made hard work necessary, perhaps, to even survive, let alone succeed.
This season I challenge you to thank someone in particular who contributed to what you have. I hope you’ll let them know that you appreciate their actions, presence or gift.
Here’s my partial list:
I’m thankful to my parents for teaching me to make education a part of my life, not just the classroom experience.
I’m thankful to my great Aunt Dora for encouraging me to make (sometimes hard) choices that “progress” my dreams.
I’m thankful to my husband for our many adventures, from far away lands to reading new books with our son.
I’m thankful to my husband for his encouragement to write, write, write.
I’m thankful to my son for his curiosity and courage as he tries new things, falls and gets right back up again.
I’m thankful to the many resources I had available to me to find trustworthy, attentive and kind babysitters to watch my son with while I work.
I’m thankful to the daycare where he’ll be starting this winter for their many resources, space and attention to the children in their care.
I’m thankful to the internet, phones and U.S. postal service for keeping far away friends close.
I’m thankful to the city of Washington, D.C., and our many city and federal programs that provide libraries, parks, well-lit streets, reliable public transportation, clean air and water and more for its residents.
I’m thankful to the many supermarkets near us that provide a wide selection of food to prepare.
I’m thankful to my employers for the intellectual challenge that is teaching and the paychecks that help to provide food, housing and the basics, as well as other things, like books.
I’m thankful to my students, especially when they ask questions that challenge my teaching skills and knowledge of subjects.
I’m thankful to my education for giving me the resources to know how and where to ask for help when something isn’t right. That is to say, I’m thankful to my parents for my education, both at home and at school.
We should all be in a position to be thankful to services and regular income for shelter, food, clothing, education, health care and more. Help to make that possible for someone else this season and throughout the year by donating to or volunteering with your favorite charity.
We are partial to So Others May Eat and will be participating in their annual Trot for Hunger. See you there?