I love fall. I love the leaves blazing orange, red, and yellow. I love breathing in the crisp air and putting on a cozy sweater. One of my favorite autumn activities is harvesting sweet potatoes. Adam (my partner) and I have enjoyed growing sweet potatoes in our community gardens over the years because they don’t need much attention. Once they’re well established, we can employ benign neglect. Their vines spread low and dense all over the soil, shading weeds, and they don’t require regular harvest – just one big effort at the end. Once mid-October comes around, it’s time for the treasure hunt! I sink the digging fork into the ground, unsure of what I’ll find, and unearth these big dark pink beauties. The bounty is always breathtaking. I have to rock back on my heels, fingernails caked with dirt, arms full of food, and give thanks.
Speaking of giving thanks, I also have long loved Thanksgiving. I was ignorant about what to mourn when I first heard about the National Day of Mourning. Thanksgiving seemed to me an unquestionably positive day, free of the rampant commercialization that plagues Christmas, and what’s wrong with eating food with family and friends? Learning about the Day of Mourning, an even that has been organized for 50 years by the United American Indians of New England on Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, MA, I came to understand that our primary story about “The First Thanksgiving” glosses over the terrible truths of genocide. The Day of Mourning is a space for protest, a ceremony to honor Native ancestors, and an affirmation that Indigenous people still exist, they are still strong, and they still resist the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism. Our November worship theme is Attention. The Day of Mourning sure got my attention – it disrupted my simplistic understanding of Thanksgiving and it pushed me to recognize that not everyone celebrates the Pilgrims’ arrival on these shores. I have been grateful to participate in this event over the years.
Like many families, my sister and I have kept up our family’s tradition of going around and saying what we are grateful for on Thanksgiving. When my older niece was barely three, she caught on and fell in love with this practice. She insisted that they keep doing “gratefuls” after Thanksgiving was over, and now it’s a staple of dinnertime in their house. There’s nothing quite like witnessing very young children express their gratitude and love for their family. When my younger niece was two, she once said she was grateful for water, which blew my mind. The Rev. Galen Gugenrich of All Souls Unitarian in New York City has said, “the ethic of gratitude demands that we nurture the world that nurtures us in return.” When gratitude is central in our practices of faith, it opens us up to our interdependence in a profound way, which moves us to build a world that reflects our gratitude. Given the food that the earth provides, the support we can provide one another in the face of great harm, and the simple wonder of water, I have much to be thankful for this November.
And finally, you’re invited to a brown bag lunch on Thursday, Nov 14 at noon. If you’re around town during the day and can bring a bagged lunch to church, come on by for some company and conversation. Any church visitor, friend, or member is welcome. Call or email me to RSVP: (781) 784 – 3652 x2, (617) 851-9356, or firstname.lastname@example.org.