THIS IS WHAT I KNOW ON THANKSGIVING--Who among us doesn’t remember learning about Thanksgiving in elementary school? In November of 1621, Governor William Bradford organized a feast to celebrate the first successful corn harvest. He extended an invitation to Wampanoag Chief Massasoit and others to join the three-day feast. The menu didn’t include cranberry sauce, Aunt Mary’s Jello mold and stuffing. Maybe not even a 25-lb. turkey. Also, the Pilgrims and their guests weren’t rushing off for Black Friday.
The Pilgrims probably didn’t even refer to the feast as “Thanksgiving,” but, like many cultures that have celebrated harvest feasts, it’s likely they were thankful just to have survived the challenges before them.
For most of us, the 2016 Presidential election cycle, its outcome and the anxiety of the unknown that lays ahead have magnified the stresses of daily life such as negotiating endless rush hours and SigAlerts and trying to find street parking while translating parking restrictions. As a yogi, I try to practice daily gratitude.
Focusing on what we do have can go a long way to shift our view when feeling overwhelmed by political posts on Facebook and Twitter or watching the pundits battle it out on CNN.
As we google Thanksgiving recipes and line up at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, let’s remember to express gratitude for what we have, whether it’s the Hamilton soundtrack, Runyon Canyon’s reopening or that first glimpse of the Pacific we see as we drive through the awe-inspiring canyons.
I am grateful for the chance to connect with grassroots groups throughout our city. This past weekend, I celebrated with activists committed to protecting the Santa Monica Mountains. The room was filled with people of all ages who volunteer their time and efforts to ensure that current and future generations can enjoy our magnificent terrain, that wildlife will be protected, and that the land will be secured against the threat of development or vineyards that compromise the environment.
This past year, I’ve met so many Angelenos who work together to maintain neighborhood integrity throughout the city, mentoring each other through their battles. Whether we’ve moved here from somewhere else or are native Angelenos, most of us love our city for its possibilities; we love living in a community that embraces people from all over the planet.
I’ve had conversations with friends and colleagues in the weeks since the election. We’ve agreed that we must move forward in unity to protect everything from the environment to equal rights for everyone and not just a few.
We can only conjecture what life will be like post-Inauguration but let’s remember that change doesn’t only come from the Capitol in Washington D.C. We can create change at the neighborhood, city and state levels. Focus on the issues that fire your passion, whether it’s saving your neighborhood from spot-zoning and mega-projects, helping with the housing crisis and homelessness, keeping our beaches clean, or fighting discrimination against any group that is marginalized by policy or by threats of violence, whether physical or verbal.
Take some time to reflect not only on the need for gratitude but also on what we can do. As Julien Smith wrote in The Flinch, “You can change the world again, instead of protecting yourself from it.”
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)