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November 8, 2019

How to get through the Holidays when everyone doesn’t Get Along. ~ Linda Lewis

I love sweet potatoes with turkey for Thanksgiving, even though I’m vegetarian.

And oodles of cranberry sauce!

I’m reminded of Trungpa Rinpoche’s instructions re: “Work on the greater defilements first,” which he explained as better to enjoy Thanksgiving with family than to insult them by being righteously pure. This did not mean not to be vegetarian; in fact, later in his brief life, he advocated eating “white” food—rice, veggies, and fish.

Not quite vegetarian, but a huge leap for a Tibetan raised on barley and yak meat!

Celebrating Thanksgiving with friends, if not family, is special when one lives alone—even though there may be an irritating fellow, who’s always been irritating, making snide or disparaging remarks directed right at you from across the table, just to see if he can hook you into a confrontation. I have to remember—ah, another opportunity to practice patience.

Then there is the intellectual know-it-all, who is learned, but who doesn’t always know everything, even though he thinks he does. Space and silence are indeed golden then, if we bother to expand our view of who is at the table, to see the smiles, laughter, and hear the kind words, moments of reflection, the sharing of memories and of recent loss. But also the news of a baby just born! It’s interesting to notice how the sharing of such joys and sorrows dissolves individual self-importance, even if only briefly.

Expanding our view usually does tend to dissolve self-cherishing. In doing so, we realize that we have so much to appreciate and to be grateful for. Anyone reading this or planning a Thanksgiving get-together probably has a roof over their heads and is not starving. Though safety and security are less in America than it was in the past, due to the abundance of guns and the lack of universal mental health care, most people enjoy rights and freedoms not enjoyed by many in the world.

Consider that only 39 percent of people on this planet have the right to vote.

A timely topic of conversation that might expand the view of those at your Thanksgiving table is expressing gratitude for Greta, who initiated the school strikes and started a green movement that has magnetized people of all ages. Following in the footsteps of David Attenborough and David Suzuki, she has made science credible for many doubters.

Look and listen to see if conversational sparks fly, or if those at the table nod in agreement. If sparks fly, that is good, because we don’t always want to “preach to the choir”…or preach at all. If some disagree, ask questions rather than argue. If they agree, you might want to add that people in Canada are beginning to realize that there are more jobs in a green economy and that a just transition from fossil fuels is possible, because those skills are transferable and trainable.

Listen and look again to hear people voice their addiction to cars or their openness to being green, which is, admittedly, not taking root soon enough. Yet citizens of the world are beginning to realize that planting trees is good for the planet, and that clear-cutting forests disrupt wildlife, leaving nutrient-poor soil. Wildlife and animals and birds in general usually touch peoples’ hearts, and most will agree that animals should have some rights. Backtracking from there, most people will understand the value of forests and animal habitats.

If you’re brave, you might add that what’s needed are enforceable environmental laws and politicians who are not captured by corporate interests. Or choose to retreat into pleasantries and the topic of weather—which might be climate-related!

But appreciating what we do have is the heart of Thanksgiving. And eating together is just an excuse to be together—feisty and provocative, as well as sweet.

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