El Día de Acción de Gracias


A brief one for Thanksgiving, because there are things to say.  

I’m not going to get political, much, though this holiday is deeply conflicted.  Unless you whitewash it the whole way, we’re celebrating some bad things and we don’t have any National Days of Mourning or Grieving or Repentance, because that isn’t our style. Today when we were talking to the borrachos who hang out outside our house, Kim asked them if they knew what Thanksgiving is.  One of them said he thought so, but they all knew what Black Friday is.  Sigh. On the other hand, I don’t think you can be too grateful, to God or to the people who love you and make your life worth being alive for.  

Recently, I sat at a table and ate and drank and conversed in Spanish and laughed hard with friends, people I love in this strange (to me) land that’s been home for working on seven years now.  One of the people is abused.  None of us can fix it.  Sometimes it goes better.  Sometimes it gets a lot worse.  We’re involved and invested and all those great words that really do mean compassion and time and money.  But our lives are so utterly different.  Yet we sit together and joke and laugh and care for each other.  That’s what we can do.  

Yesterday I got such awful news it literally knocked the breath from me, like a knee driven into my chest.  It’s so bad and so private I can’t even hint at it, but it’s from someone I love, about someone I love, and all I could do was listen and feel my guts churn.  I was the safe place for it, the person who could share a little of the overwhelming pain.  That’s what we can do.  

My son is not a great baseball player and may never be.  But today when I said, “Hey, let’s go play baseball,” he said, “Oh, yes!”  We played for about an hour and I can see how he is improving.  I can tell him.  I can do what my father did for me and love him with my time and sweat and sharing what I know about fielding grounders and going with the pitch.  I’m never really sure how I’m doing as a dad, but this I can do.  

My wife often feels like when we prepare for celebrations, she does most or all of the work.  Today, the kiddos and I were able to help with some significant prep work while she was working on gifts for the moms of her preschoolers from the little preschool she and two neighbors run in our barrio.  She still probably did the majority of the work, but we did a good job with our list and when she got back, it was all done and the kitchen was clean.  I’m not the servant to my wife that I aspire to be, but today, we did okay.  

Thanksgiving crew! (Disregard the Christmas decor, it really is Thanksgiving.)

Today, in addition to being grateful for the people in my life and how they love me, I’m grateful for how I get to love them.  It’s imperfect and messy, always, but also life-giving and healing, both ways.  I believe we are healed through loving others.  

The Nicaraguan translation for Thanksgiving is “el Día de Accion de Gracias.”  I really like this.  Literally, “the day of the action of thanks.”  That means both “the day of giving thanks” and “the day of thankful action.”  

These are my thankful actions.  In the end, this is what we can do.  

What about Power?


Lately much of what I hear is a debate about power.  It may not be the stated or acknowledged topic, but between the lines or as the underlying theme?  Almost always.

When we discuss what to do about refugees, we’re talking about power.  When we debate who gets to own and fire guns, we’re talking about power.  When we argue over the best next leader for the United States, the heart of that argument is power.

arm wrestlingThis is not new, but I really think we need to acknowledge it.  If we don’t, we pretend to have different motives than those actually guiding our interactions.  If we deceive ourselves, we cannot be straightforward with our opponents.

Take this another step.  I think many people feel powerless.  Many folks think–or imagine–that they have lost power they screaming protestersonce had.  Was there once a sense of control, of being master of one’s own destiny, that has gotten away?  Is that why we’re so pissed off?  Is that why all political discussions immediately devolve into insults and name-calling?

I’m asking questions here, because though I am generalizing, I’m certain these matters are more complex than simply the issue of power.  Nonetheless, I see this issue acknowledged so rarely that I feel almost compelled to name it.

I hate–and I do mean that word, “hate”–how uncivil our political discourse has become.  I’ve said this before and it bears repeating–how we treat one another is more important than who we vote for or our political stance.  Jesus said so.  There were crazy levels of politics and power struggles going on in Jesus’ time, folks popping up claiming to be the Messiah, a whole insurgent movement against Roman occupation, a religious/political party claiming the way forward was holiness (Pharisees), another claiming it was gaining secular influence (Sadducees), and then a bunch of people hoping for a military revolution led by an all-powerful Messiah from God who would crush enemies under his heel.  And to that cyclone of conflicting factions, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you:  love one another as I have loved you.  They shall know you by your love of one another.”

Yeah, they don’t.  They, the non-Christians who see how we communicate, don’t know us by our love for one another so much when we scream over Hillary versus Bernie, or blare about how much we need to prevent these Syrian immigrants from entering our country so we don’t get blown to hell.  In fact, we almost seem to take it as a matter of pride that we don’t engage in civil discourse, that we don’t allow for the possibility that we could be wrong on any single point because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anyone who is of the opposite political persuasion from me, is both an idiot and an asshole.


Continue reading