by Brooke Burt, creative strategist
Just like the best episodes of “Friends”, all good things in November lead to Thanksgiving. If you’re like me, you’re already looking forward to something related to the holiday, whether it’s the food, the football, or the frenzy of Black Friday shopping. I know we’ve already planned our menu at our house, and whether you prefer mashed potatoes or sweet, nobody would really ever judge you for your choice, because it’s all good at Thanksgiving. My kids request the jellied cranberry sauce, and I like the whole, but you know what? On Thanksgiving, we just go ahead and get both. And then we share it, along with all the other food—with relatives, with friends, sometimes even with people we barely know, on paper plates, surrounded by the sounds of voices catching up or getting to know each other. Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday.
Last week, I was shopping in a local department store, and the lady who was checking me out said, “You know, everyone has been so polite to me since we put out the holiday stuff.” It does seem that way. There seems to be a little more cheer, a little more patience, a little less anger. Maybe the reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday has less to do with trappings of the holiday and more to do with the way it pulls people together. “Friendsgivings” have become popular in recent years, probably as a callback to all those famous Thanksgiving “Friends” episodes, but also because it allows people to celebrate the families they’ve chosen, of good friends and neighbors that may not be any blood relation.
Why does Thanksgiving appeal in this way to so many? I can’t be sure exactly, but I think it has less to do with bargain prices on gadgets at Best Buy and more to do with the fact that we are all desperate for connection. I recently read that attendance for events in many venues has dropped, from church worship, to local sporting events, to conferences. People live-stream speakers or tweet scores, ride virtual reality roller coasters and text emojis, so people don’t have to BE there to “be” there.
Except that, really, they do.
There is something to be said about a collective experience, something that reminds you that you are a small part of the great web of humanity. As cosmic as that may sound, in a small way, Thanksgiving helps remind me of that. Collectively, we can agree on Thanksgiving to help someone in need, to feed someone other than ourselves, to look forward to a particular season with some sort of anticipation or, maybe, even a little hope. But here’s the thing…why can’t we do that all year, in all facets of our lives, and our work? Like the cashier who told me she wished people would be polite even when the holiday decorations weren’t out, how can we approach the rest of the year the way we approach Thanksgiving? How can we translate this to our work and our business? How can we bring people together and not add even more to the division that is so readily available in our social media feeds? How can we tap in to what is common for all of us?
Maybe I’ve oversimplified this in my head, but to me, it is as easy as sharing kindness. Starting with me, then you, then our businesses, community spaces, school hallways–there could be a ripple effect of connections drawing people in and around each other. Start small and watch it grow. It doesn’t cost a thing, but its effects are priceless. Every year, I’m thankful for the small and large acts of kindness shown to me, even when (and maybe especially when) I didn’t deserve them. May we all be so lucky.
So whether you like your cranberry sauce jellied or whole, and whether your table is set with china or paper plates, may your hearts grow so full of kindness during this season that the only way you can make room for more is to give it away. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.