Many years ago, while working in Madrid as a young lawyer I was quizzed by a Spanish co-worker, “Peelgrim, what’s a peelgrim?” At that moment, I found myself trying to describe the outerwear of the women and the ultimate demise of the native Americans who, with generous hearts, had come forth with food. In hindsight, my response lacked the depth and thoughtfulness I would attempt to give it today with an expanded view of life.
Nowadays, practicing empathy, I might try to put myself in the place of those “illegal immigrants” who had landed on our shores looking for new opportunities as they fled religious persecution. Starving and cold that first winter in this foreign land, with families on the other side of the world, they must have wondered what they were thinking embarking on such a perilous trip, all in the name of belief and faith. Yet, they were welcomed by the locals who taught them survival skills. Humanity at its most common denominator.
Growing up in Peru, Thanksgiving was whatever my mother made of it. There were no craft stores with aisles of fake orange and yellow leaves or, scarecrows dressed as pilgrims for front yard decorations. Black Friday did not exist, much less start weeks in advance attempting to secure buyers with massive discounts on the day after this American holiday. Quite frankly, there were no turkeys to be found in Lima. So, she roasted a scrawny chicken and concentrated on the trimmings.
Americans living overseas made a valiant effort to recreate the traditions they had been raised with and to invite local friends who had not experienced this carb fest. Going around the table, we would recite exactly what we were grateful for before we poured the sparkling and started heaping mounds of food on the holiday china reserved for this special occasion. What continues to strike me is that this holiday has had June Cleaver written all over it, in bold red letters, for as long as I can remember. Somewhere, the “why” of the day was erased.
We have forgotten what the pilgrims, the original migrants, stood for - the freedom to be who you are and believe what you want. Many cannot relate to the fact that it takes a lot of fortitude to fight for your beliefs and a better life for your children particularly, if it means giving up everything you have ever known. You will take risks and face consequences that you never dreamed you could recover from. You will question your actions many times over but each time your heart will respond quietly that you must move forward on your mission.
Have we become so focused on our own little tribes that we have forgotten that humanity is a collective, a singular noun? Each of us do the best we can to navigate the revolving doors of life. We are all migrants on this journey.
For some it is a geographical trek across rough waters and treacherous terrain facing one mountain or wall after another, for others a spiritual voyage searching for a God that will love them despite their many faults. Many of us move from one job to another searching for an elusive sense of purpose and worth. We do the same with our families holding the June Cleaver standard high, comparing and wishing for the perfect mom, daughter, father or son. We travel, we grow and, we learn as we move to an end goal that continually shifts.
On this Thanksgiving as you cook, eat and prepare to watch hours of football on TV, my prayer for the world is that each of us will stand in our humanity – by not making Thanksgiving about our own blessings but rather those that we can bestow on others. My ask is that we are the kind of locals that invite the tired and weary to the table, offering them a safe place to rest their weary souls, enough food to give them the energy to keep moving down the path and, a sense of value and appreciation for who they are and what they believe in. And, most of all, to be the little voice that says, “You are doing the right thing my friend, just put one foot in front of the other.”
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All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore