Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On a Thanksgiving Table, a Simple Bowl of Rice

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On a Thanksgiving Table, a Simple Bowl of Rice

Article excerpt

This week we celebrate a holiday, a peculiarly American one, though somewhat related to the harvest festivals of other cultures.

In a little while I will sit down to a feast, in the comfort of my home, in the company of my family. We will be renewing a tradition that began when New England was "New" England. It started, of course, as a celebration among people who had been tested in harsh conditions, and who, when they knew they would survive, threw themselves a party and invited the neighbors.

We absorb a lot of grade-school mythology in learning about that first Thanksgiving. The Indians provided this and the Pilgrims cooked that, and they all sat down together to celebrate the bounty of Nature. It's likely the event was a truce, an effort to keep the two sides from drifting into distrust and antagonism. In the long run, it didn't work, but the impulse to make peace is still as strong, and as noble, as it was in the dawn of America's colonial past. "Blessed are the peacemakers," we recite, from a much older codex of virtues. The peacemakers must be patient, because their task is to neutralize the centrifugal forces that drive men and nations apart, and to instill in their place the gravitational forces that draw people and communities together. It is daunting work, and we honor its practitioners for their courage, for their persistence, and for the small, incremental successes they achieve from time to time. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat won the Nobel Peace Prize for arranging a significant pause in the ageless war between Arab and Jew. Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat won the same prize years later for a lesser pause. Yet the peace remains elusive, and the giving of thanks for its blessings remains suspended. On this Thanksgiving, my family and I will have the turkey and all the traditional side dishes that make up the holiday menu. My children don't follow the news as closely as I do, and I might spoil their mood by asking if anyone ever deserved a peace prize for, in Abraham Lincoln's words, binding up the nation's wounds. …

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