Thanksgiving week is upon us, which, for many, signals a return. For some, an actual homecoming to families of origin and familiar places. For others, a retreat with chosen family. Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
This may seem like a test or an invitation, ridiculous or poetic, depending on where we come from. The challenges presented to each of us about how to love well in close proximity to others are varying. But I think the charge – no matter if we apply it to our actual families or the community we have chosen – is wise and more relevant than ever before. In this age of chaos, the connections between us are fraying. We are more siloed, more lonely, more paranoid. Loving one’s “family” may not comprise the totality of the necessary justice work our culture is dying and thirsting for.
Mother Teresa’s words are wise precisely because they capture something so essential. Our relationships and how they have developed are at the bedrock of our individual pain, our hopes for our lives and the world, and the manner in which we relate to other human beings. Loving individual human beings well is indeed a part of world-healing work.
Loving well, to me, means loving generously. Not sacrificing oneself or enabling the delusions and addictions (whatever those may be, material or psychological) of others, but loving in a way that seeks understanding, rather than judgment, that meets conflict with grace, that responds with courage (which is fundamentally different from harshness). Choose conscious love this Thanksgiving. Love with eyes wide open.
Wise love is resilient, I think. Love that is sustaining and sustains, for as Mother Teresa also reminded us, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
If you are looking for ways to behave a little wiser on this holiday – with its deeply complex history tied to violence and colonialism – as you gather around tables with known and loved ones, here are a few reminders and ideas.
May each of you have a restful, peaceful, meaningful Thanksgiving.
From the New York Times: “Thanksgiving for Native Americans: Four Voices on a Complicated History”