Diary of a Dad- The Season of Thanks (December 2, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “The Season of Thanks”. This is the week of the year that we have decided to be thankful. We celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys, mashed potatoes, dressings, and that one dish that no one can make as good as Grandma. We celebrate a fairy tale of Pilgrims in wide brimmed hats and big buckled shoes breaking bread with Native Americans in headdresses and moccasins. We wake up early on Friday morning, or go out after dinner on Thursday evening, to push and shove to get the “best deal” for another load of things that we keep buying in hopes that they will make us happy or our kids happy or will finally bring us fulfillment.

We do this every year and on December 26 we’ll say, “I’m not going to do that again.” It reminds me of the times you might wake up after working out too hard, or partying too hard, or staying up too late. You wake up sore, bleary eyed, and tired saying, “Wow, that was rough. I’m never going to do that again.” Yet we do it, over and over and over. We never get off the hamster wheel of consumption and pushing down our feelings with food, drink, and presents. We never actually stop what we are doing or how we are living, we just keep consuming, because that’s what our society tells us is the most important. GO SHOP! It will boost the economy, which will provide jobs, which will provide opportunity for everyone. If we only shopped more we could save our country.

Today, my heart breaks for our country, because I’m not sure it can be saved.

This week the issues in our country and how we deal with one another are being blasted all over every news station. People are protesting in cities all over the country, from Ferguson, to Los Angeles, to New York City and I don’t blame them. Regardless of whether you believe that what happened to Mike Brown is just or not, it’s impossible not to see that something is wrong with our country and as much as we’d like it to be different, people aren’t treated equally, white privilege exists, and racism still controls much of our attitudes toward people that look different.

I could show statistics and tell you anecdotes from all over the country about the way that people of color are treated differently in the United States, but I’ve had those conversations and if you don’t think it exists then no amount of arguing is going to change your position.

This week in the Christian calendar is the beginning of Advent; it is the start of the season that will conclude in the celebration of God coming to the world in the form of a baby we call Jesus. The season is a time of expectation and hope, a season of darkness and waiting, a season of fear and the unknown.

This is the season in which we live, this is the world that we occupy, the place where the violent death of an unarmed teenager can stoke the fires of passion that lead us to change. Even in the fires and the looting and the seeming unraveling of our country I have hope.

Hope that leads us through Advent.

Patricia E. De Jong says, “Hope is what is left when your worst fears have been realized and you are no longer optimistic about the future. Hope is what comes with a broken heart willing to be mended.”

May your heart be broken this season and may you be willing to be mended. Mended so that we can move forward together, acknowledging the real barriers we have to overcome in order to be the “shining light on the hill” that the Pilgrims envisioned. A friend of mine on Facebook posted a quote from one of her professors, “When people want to work together, they’ll overcome any obstacle. But if they don’t want to work together, they’ll use anything for a barricade.” Let us be people that want to work together not people that seek to control the conversation.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Spending this Thanksgiving week with my family in West Virginia.

Not Favorite: Having to drive 14+ hours to have Thanksgiving with my family.