How to do Thanksgiving without Family. (a Poem)

How to do Thanksgiving right.

first of all, breathe in

clear the mind

it’s not about expectation

it’s not about turkey

it’s not even about family

breathe out: remember

memories grounded in old ways

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks—but to what, to whom?

Let’s see: Thanksgiving is about origins.

Thanksgiving is about where we came from, and how we got here, and who helped us here.

Thanksgiving is about history: personal and societal

Thanksgiving is about taking the time to remember

to look back

to, yes

give thanks

Thanksgiving is about pain, and suffering. Giving thanks is about sitting down with those who’ve taken us in

Giving thanks is about peace, if only for a moment, in a life full of strife

with bombs falling in the Promised Land

and with our Native American hosts on the East Coast now long dead, most killed by greed

with heirloom corn nearly extinct, 99% of all corn gmo in only 10 years, patented for profits, manipulated by scientists for hire, playing evolution for pay

now Thanksgiving has become about mass slaughter

about gluttony while the world burns


Thanksgiving is what we make of it

so let’s make something full and warm and real and thoughtful

let’s keep it simple

give thanks

eat real food, untouched by greed and poison

cook together, as we too rarely do

eat together, sitting down

eat only as much as we want, and perhaps a little more

drink only as much as we need

hug more than we can handle

without softening up

I don’t have a family, not much of one

so I’ve always had Thanksgivings with other families who’ve taken me in

I don’t cook, so I’ve always brought ice cream and wine and pie

but I help prep in the kitchen and learn stuff

I play with the children

I sit by the fire with a loved one

I find a home in loneliness and it burns happy, like a new beeswax candle

Thanksgiving is refuge, it is family, it is a too-rare time when family comes together and sits down and keeps it simple.

So put away the cell phone, unless you’re taking a photo.

Only take a few photos.

Try and keep it simple.

Turn off the TV—football watching is fun and a community event in itself—but today is about family, about being together, about love

and when we look back we’ll remember those days


we gave thanks

like we meant it.


That’s my plan.

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.