Happy Thanksgiving from the Murthy Law Firm!23 Nov 2011
Summer has come and gone, and even fall is on the wane, as the trees drop the last of their leaves, still glowing in sunset colors and blowing around the yard. Almost four hundred years ago, in 1621, the Pilgrims marked this time of year with the first Thanksgiving feast, giving thanks for the harvest that would sustain them, and for the abundant promise of the new land to which they had come to live in freedom. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation had endured a long and difficult winter, and an exhausting summer preparing for the next one. With that first Thanksgiving, they took time to rest from their labors and count their blessings.
This Thanksgiving, we should take a page from their book, and reflect a bit on what the Pilgrims’ experience can teach us. Three lessons stand out.
The first and most obvious lesson is about gratitude – understanding and truly appreciating all that we have, and all we’ve been given. The Pilgrims’ lives were difficult by any measure; they worked hard, and their material comforts were few. Yet, they celebrated what they did have, rather than focus only on their wants and the many things they lacked.
The second lesson is that we’re all in this together. Nothing could prepare the Pilgrims for the trials they faced during their first year, but it was quickly apparent that they needed to pull together to get through the hard times – the long, cold winter, and the threat of famine as their food supply ran low. It was harder here than they reckoned, but they managed with grit, determination, and no small measure of hope and faith to keep them going.
The third lesson is about the importance of hospitality. At the first Thanksgiving, the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation invited NativeAmericans to join them for a three-day feast of fish and fowl, fruits and vegetables. The settlers were returning the hospitality of the NativeAmericans who had helped them avoid starvation in their new and unfamiliar home: the Wampanoag tribe had provided food to get the settlers through their first difficult winter at Plymouth, and taught them how to live off the land. They broke bread together in a gesture of goodwill and gratitude.
What does this mean for us today? My sincere hope for this Thanksgiving is that we can come to appreciate all we have in this great country, and recognize that the strength of our nation lies in each other – in the diverse backgrounds and talents and experiences and outlooks that we all bring to this wonderfully rich mosaic we call America. We should recognize the shared potential we have as a country, rather than constantly obsessing about all that is not right here. Yes, we do have problems to solve – but this shouldn’t blind us to how good we have it here, compared to many other parts of our world.
Realizing how much we have is the first step toward personal generosity. Times are hard right now, but – like the original Pilgrims – we can pull together across the issues that divide us if we remember their spirit of common purpose and shared enterprise. Let me say it again: we’re all in this together. Each of us needs to take responsibility for mending the broken parts of our society. I deeply appreciate everything this country has given me, and I have vowed to give back to my adopted country, every chance I get. Philanthropy is now an integral part of our life plan, and each year I commit a large amount of my time, talent, and treasure to efforts that make our country a better place: the Girl Scouts, United Way, the Women’s Law Center, and a host of other causes for a stronger society. I am thankful for all the people who embrace this work, and share a part of themselves to make it happen.
What should hospitality mean today? It means welcoming strangers, and making them feel at home. In the larger sense, it means remembering that we are a nation of immigrants – one that has thrived on the contributions of newcomers – and then acting on this knowledge. People still come to this land for the same reasons they always have – pursuing freedom from oppression, economic opportunity, and the chance of a better life. Hospitality means opening our hearts and minds to others, however different their customs, political opinions, cultures and languages may be from our own.
Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, young or old, of the 99% or the 1%, IndianAmerican or American Indian – no matter where you come from, or what your beliefs are, I hope we can all agree that we have much to be thankful for in this country, and much to give back.
May you feel the joy and abundance and share your love and bounty with all those around you. Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!