Grasshopper Soup: Give thanks for what you fear

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; The first Thanksgiving was a great feast in an otherwise inhospitable wilderness. It was also a temporary break from the inevitable tension and betrayal, and treacherous, corrupt behavior so common between human beings in 1621, and throughout history.

The pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Wampanoag Indians knew that feast and famine were of the same household. They knew that exploring and hunting could end in conflict with the very people they were sharing food with. They knew that if they didnand#8217;t try to get along with people whose ideas they feared, they would die.

In spite of all that, they were able to suspend their fears, live in the moment and be satisfied with a few days of food and games with total strangers whose customs were extremely odd to them, and whose ways were so different they were frightening.

Thanksgiving has traditionally been about being grateful and helping others who are in need. But Thanksgiving can be a unique experience in other ways too. It can be a celebration of life in spite of not knowing what the future will bring, or in spite of knowing that the future could very well bring hardship and unforeseen troubles, disputes and controversy no matter what you do. It can be about relishing in hope and promise, and appreciating radically new customs and behaviors that challenge our puritanical senses and rigid doctrines and paradigms, a challenge we habitually avoid.

The first Thanksgiving was about being satisfied with the moment, enjoying friends, family and people never before included in our lives; people we would not otherwise associate with; people we had no idea how to relate to if not for our common humanity, and our common need to nourish our bodies and form alliances for survival.

It is so easy, and common, to ignore the part about being satisfied in the face of the unknown and making ourselves comfortable with people who are different. The thought of hanging out with strangers, and with people who have different customs and ways of viewing the world, rarely crosses our mind. We seek familiarity, the same old habits, and unconsciously stay well within our own personal comfort zone over the holidays. In that way, the holidays are not really that much different for us than the rest of the year. The thought of seeking out, and making peace with, someone we have cut off, someone we once knew and laughed with, well, we shoot that thought down before it ever has a chance to pop up. Instead, we think of something mean we would like to say if we ever see that person again. We even go so far as to feel thankful for, satisfied with, and proud of ourselves and our self-righteous, negative attitude toward am old friend who has the guts to speak his mind. And then we turn around and boast about how tolerant we are.

We have more in common than we think with people who say things we disagree with.

Cross the great sea. Drop in on an old friend you havenand#8217;t seen in years. Call them just to say hello and see how they are doing. Take the risk. Forget what it was they said to make you angry. Donand#8217;t trust your ego. Admit you could be wrong. Dare yourself to perform a miracle. Miracles do happen. Anything is possible in this universe. Anything.

We can go farther than the first pilgrims and make this world better. We will never enjoy the freedom and blessings of a New World without taking great personal risks.

Sacrifice yourself. Set sail for the New World. Erase the boundaries of your comfort zone. Be critical of your perceptions. Reject all stereotypes. Be a brave pilgrim.

There is nothing more important than friendship and serving others. A successful harvest, and a good feast, means nothing without embracing and celebrating the family of man.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.

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