Yesterday was Thanksgiving 2014. It’s a toss up over which is the biggest and most important US holiday, Christmas or Thanksgiving. Commercially, Christmas takes the prize, at least in the minds of most businesses. For college students, Christmas offers the charm of a longer break from the class room. Judging, however, from Thanksgiving travel options, buses, trains, and planes are book solid and tend to cost the most of anytime during the year. Hmmm.
Probably the biggest advantage of Thanksgiving is that it is secular. Christmas comes with the baggage of christianity and does not resonate with non-christians as much as with those with other religious affinities. Most younger people have made already the transition to Santa Claus and scratch their heads why some parents argue vehemently about putting a manger on the town square.
Thanksgiving is suppose to be a time when all Americans pause and give thanks for their good fortunes. Being with family and enjoying good food and drink is considered one of the most important activities on Thanksgiving. And one does not need to read many newspapers to recognize how well off compared to billions of other people living elsewhere in the world. These less fortunates find themselves with disease, hunger, and some with outright war. For most Americans, they have so much more to be thankful about than their peers around the world.
If, however, Americans reflect upon the Washington DC political climate or the partisan world at State level, there are big questions about what there is to be thankful about. Each party incessantly reminds Americans about how their government is failing them, and how much better it would be if they were in power. Thankfully Thanksgiving is a time when most Americans can step back from the negative leadership Democrats and Republicans offer.
No better example could be found than than attending a Thanksgiving Parade. In Philadelphia, like New York there is a magnificent parade featuring marching bands from cities distant from Philadelphia. These high school marching bands show visibly what young people can do cooperatively when provided decent leadership. The music is thrilling and the precision band movements evoke a strong feeling of “can do”.
Of course no one knows what lies ahead for these student musicians. Some may turn into dysfunctional political partisans like those we see in Washington. Others may get a bad break or waste a wonderful opportunity. But, my guess is that far more will learn from their band experience the power of working together and what individual effort can accomplish if they work hard.
Marching bands need no religious anchor so no one needs to argue over their own personal frailties. Marching bands bring pleasure to both the participants and those looking on. And no amount of rationalization can talk up a poor performance, especially if the marching band had not worked at practiced.
Maybe a good lesson for everyone.