I love Thanksgiving. Of all the holidays, it is the one in the US that brings everyone together. Focusing on what we are grateful for- setting aside a day for thankfulness- is a universal value. As I prepare to spend tomorrow roasting turkey, and sharing love and laughter with family, I got to thinking about what are the other universal values that bind us together as human beings. As with many people today, I find it unfortunate that there seems to be so much that divides us, but being an eternal optimist I believe that there is far more that we have in common — and that those things are more powerful than what separates us. What we all agree on:
Family: Call it biological instinct, or the need to belong- but almost everyone values their family and wants what is best for them. From Desmond Tutu, who said “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them” to Michael J. Fox who said “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything”- love of family is fundamental to human existence. Whether you can be with family or not over Thanksgiving, the holiday provides an opportunity to reflect on the richness that family adds to our lives.
Love: Like the air we breathe and the water we drink, love is essential to human existence. I met a psychologist years ago who told me that in her practice, the first thing she would ask a new client was whether someone loved them unconditionally. She said if the answer was yes, she knew there would be a path to health. If the answer was no, it was a much less certain road. As with many laws of the Universe, you tend to get what you give- so perhaps focusing on giving unconditional love is the first step to receiving.
Peace: With the hectic lives we live, and the perpetual disturbing news stories about violence and other horrible events, we relish moments when we can rest our souls. All religions emphasize the importance of peace. Buddha, said “Peace comes from within. Do not seek without it”. The word “Islam” is derived from the word “peace” in Arabic. In both Jewish and Christian scriptures, there are repeated reference to peace (429 in the King James version, to be precise). Irrespective of whether a person practices any religion at all, peace is a central force- as indicated by bumper stickers, and pop culture references all extolling the virtue of living in peace (“give peace a chance”, “teach peace”, “make love not war”)
Connecting to something bigger than ourselves: For some people that is God. For others, it is mission to make the world, or your neighborhood, a better place. It could be being the parent you wished you had. It could be creating art, or appreciating the grandeur of nature. Whatever it is, all people are drawn to find the thing that elevates their purpose in life and gives meaning to the work that they do. It is like finding the context in which your life fits- and the reason to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other, when sometimes that is hard to do.
I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving and I hope that the day is filled with family, love, peace and a greater sense of purpose. May your lives be filled with abundance and gratitude!