Rethinking Thanks Giving

By Leslie Manning | November 20, 2020

A panel presentation delivered by Leslie Manning on November 19 at “Looking deeply at Thanksgiving” (an event in partnership with the 400 years project and the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ).

Thanks giving is not a day, it is not a feast, it is a way of walking in the world.

We have been given all that we need, not just to survive, but to thrive. We live, if we can but see it, in an abundance of resources that lend themselves to our well-being. We have been asked to steward and shepherd these resources so that they may be sustainable and sustain us all.

Instead, we have chosen to exploit, enslave, exterminate, and extract. We have fished the cod to the point of collapse, stripped the earth and fracked the shale, fought wars over wood, petroleum, religion, and soon, water. And whom do I mean by we?

We, the descendants of the refugees, the economic refugees, the political and religious refugees who poured into this continent as victims of oppression and became the oppressors themselves. Because that is the nature of the domination system to which we, in our arrogance and ignorance, have subscribed for the last five thousand years. Subjugate, assimilate or exterminate, dominate.

Now, again, we are being given another message, a timeless message, this time from the very people whom we sought to destroy in our own need for refuge; that it is not yet too late to reject the domination system and replace it with a system of Shalom, of wholeness, peace, sufficiency and healing which brings the realm of the Divine “the kin-dom of G!d” into our daily lives. There is enough for all of us. Enough grace, enough love, enough justice.

As we listen to what has been shared tonight, will we fall into the pattern, the intention of honoring the messenger while ignoring the message? Will we do what has been done, so often by well-intentioned people of our past, and build altars and cults of personality rather than directly undertaking the work of forgiveness, healing, and building beloved community?

This year, when this day of giving thanks will look and feel different for so many of us, holds the possibility of becoming a day of repentance, of turning away from and turning toward. Of acknowledging the harm we have caused and continue to cause the Indigenous People of this place; to seek to wrestle with what Love requires of us in repairing the many injuries, including the moral injury, of our domination, and to live with the unresolved grief that exists for so many of us.

To say, I am sorry for what has been done and continues to be done in my name.

To say, I will learn how to do better.

To live in a spirit of humility and willingness to be teachable.

To share what I have been given with others.

To practice forgiveness, of my self, of my ancestors and of my people,

and to hold each of us accountable for perpetuating on-going harm

and trauma.

To live into this teaching from Maya Angelou

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

It is not mine to say what is better for native people, it is for them to say and for me to listen. To take their words and their direction into my heart and proceed from there into action, witness, hope, and healing.

May we give thanks. 

You can check out the video of the full “Looking deeply at Thanksgiving” event here.

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