Gratitude as an Antidote for Guilt

Gratitude as an Antidote for Guilt by Michelle Katz

Rites of Passage are about the ending of one phase into another, death and survival; Thanksgiving speaks to this practice as well.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that can evoke many thoughts, stories, and different phases.  As I sit here, on thanksgiving day, I cannot help but think about the world’s various places attributing one day of the year to gratitude. This idea of the collective coming together to focus on gratefulness can be incredibly powerful, and this is what, by far, makes this day so meaningful to me. 

There is much to learn about this day, it’s histories and its variations around the globe and among cultures.  Mostly, it is believed that its origins came from people’s acknowledgment and celebration of the harvest and abundance in the time of the change of seasons. 

As for me, I find that I cannot help but think of this landscape, the history of the land, which is rife with its own understanding of Thanksgiving’s history; stories of the Indigenous and those of settlers, as well as the many stories of those who came to this land in so many different ways in the decades that followed. It all this seems particularly pertinent during this inauspicious time in our nation. 

Sherman Alexie, Spokane-Coeur d’Alene artist and writer, when asked about Thanksgiving said:

You take the holiday and make it yours. That doesn’t strip it of its original meaning or its context. There’s still the really sad holiday as well. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the end for us, the death of a culture. I guess you could say Thanksgiving is also about survival, look how strong we are… You just tell them [your kids] the truth, the long historical nature of it… “Look, you tried to kill us all, and you couldn’t.” We’re still here, waving the turkey leg in the face of evil.

I have come to see Thanksgiving is a rite of passage in its origins of harvest and season change, it has been a Rite of Passage for the history of this nation, and in the present is offers us a new passage.  We could sit in the guilt of our history or we could ignore it entirely, but it may be time for the phase of choosing one of these two options to come to an end, a time for this story to die, and for a new one to be emerge, one that truly will speak to our survival as human beings. 

Thanksgiving invites us to being gratitude, if only for a day, so that it may carry us through the rest of the year, and our lives.  Gratitude can also provide beautiful healing to the old story, possibly healing guilt, and invite us into the new story of survival.  This is what I desire to sit in. 

My parents came to this country in 1979, they escaped a land and nation of persecution, coming to a country that offered them a promise or at least a potential of something new and good.  Today, I know this land has a history that is troubling.  (It I difficult to find a land that doesn’t hold some trauma at this time.)  But every day, I wish to be in the gratitude of the sacrifice of so many, so that I can live a better life then my ancestors.  There I feel acknowledgement, humility and gratefulness. 

Thanksgiving is truly about death and survival.  Even with its connection to harvest, we see things are dying and there is an outcome that speaks to living; but it is telling of a time of living differently than the season before, or the era before.  This Thanksgiving offers us an invitation for sit in gratitude for all that has passed and all that is.  And as nature teachers us about the death and dying of each season, let us be in Thanksgiving differently, and surely with intent, so that it may be part of the story of our nation’s Rite of Passage into a more mature state of living together, celebrating our abundance, saying we are all still here, turkey leg waving and all!

Step into Gratitude with Oaks Counsel to celebrate our learning from nature and histories into a new story, personally and globally.