Commentary: A story on Thanksgiving


In difficult times, in a country divided by petty partisan politics without any goodwill in sight, it’s tough to muster enough reasons to feel grateful this Thanksgiving. When we’ve become so estranged from each other that Congress can’t even agree on what to serve our children during the school lunch, it’s tough to sit at the table in harmony.

But more than ever we must, individually and collectively, carry out an inventory of all that’s right in our midst, and perhaps Thursday, when we kick off the holiday season with a plump turkey (or a budget turkey) and trimmings, there won’t be room at the table for the frown of ingratitude.

As an antidote for the times, I offer this thought I recite like a mantra and carry with me like a shield: We are a metropolis of survivors.

That is our strength, our point of connection.

Like the pilgrims on the Mayflower, so many of us have made the journey here from someplace else, be it from the Bahamas like the pioneers of Coconut Grove or from the Caribbean and Latin America during the past five decades, or from points north and west of the North American continent throughout all of South Florida’s history.

Those who came to these shores before us made journeys through treacherous waters, treacherous terrain and treacherous times, and so did we.

Ours may be a world away from Plymouth Rock, but we too have pilgrim roots and pilgrim hearts. We too have our stories.

Tell them at the table.

Our children and grandchildren need to see a future beyond the day’s disgusting images of the coldhearted policeman pepper-spraying the faces of peaceful students at a sit-in on a college campus. They need to know that although we elected a turkey of a Congress we can do better, and we will in 2012, because with our votes we change the course of history. They need to appreciate that among us are survivors of wars and earthquakes, people who have endured the unthinkable, people whose hearts are filled with gratitude despite their strife and uncertainty.

“ Serrier le ventre,” Haitian women tell each other and themselves in tough times.

Tighten the belt. Be strong.

We are a metropolis of survivors.

No matter the circumstances of today, knowing that we can endure tough times and even thrive again will get us through the rough spots. Those of us old enough to remember know that we have persisted through displacement, penniless arrival, discrimination, alienation, and here we are, presiding at the table.

We’ve been at low points we thought had no return to the good: refugees and riots, cocaine cowboys and murderous mayhem, divisions and disruptions, the rape of the land, a physically devastating hurricane named Andrew and many more metaphorical ones.

And there was a way out of it all.

We faced reality, held ourselves accountable, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We put aside our divisions and the fences and we shared the pie. We redeemed ourselves and we came back stronger. We can do it again as many times as it takes.

Tell your children and your grandchildren.

Stories of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come nurture grace. Stories teach and inspire.

A story launched our national narrative when the Pilgrims and the Indians shared a meal so long ago. Stories can help us survive as we stand at the crossroads of our generation, at a rough part of the journey, and they can make this one, too, a Thanksgiving meal served with gratitude.