Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you more peace and love
than I can express.
I'm curious. What does the phrase "Happy Thanksgiving"
conjure up for you? Does it warm your heart and bring
sweet memories to mind? The joy of children's
laughter, playing among fall leaves, while parents set
the table with homemade whipped potatoes, turkey and
pies? Heads bowed as thanks is given?
Does it remind you of how diversely different groups,
like the Pilgrims and the Native People (American
Indians) came together to celebrate, even in the midst
of great fear and the inability to communicate? And
because of their courage a tradition was born....?
"Enemies" coming together to share peace and harmony.
That is powerful stuff. And not the stuff of fiction.
Well, for me, Thanksgiving is my favorite time of
year. I can reflect on all the kindnesses shared with
my family and me, all the moments where I have been
given an opportunity to expand my thinking, my heart,
my gifts...And, most of all, I can enjoy sharing a
prayer on behalf of, and gratitude with, those I love,
from neighbors next door to friends in faraway places.
I can be thankful for being alive and for the
opportunity to serve.
This week, I experienced something very compelling on
why courage is necessary in our world, which is
forever growing smaller and seemingly, on some fronts,
more fearful. Bear with me as I share this
amazing true story. It is a Thanksgiving gift wish I
long to share with you.
A local church here in Austin had agreed to allow the
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries to hold it's
annual interfaith Thanksgiving
feast. After six months of planning, complete with
invitations mailed and caterers pre-paid and only four
days before the event, the church backed out. Here was
what they shared with us:
"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to
worship with us, the church cannot provide space for
the practice of these non-Christian religions on
church property. We hope that AAIM and the community
of faith will understand and be tolerant of our
church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision."
It just happens that I am blessed to sit on the board
of AAIM, where I am honored to work with and know
people of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Baha'i, Catholic,
Hindu and many other faith traditions. We believe that
together we can enhance community well being and the
quality of life in Austin better than any of us could
do on our own. Our goal is to bring faith communities
together to foster mutual partnership and
transformation in the interest of the common good.
Because, as I said: It's a small world.
Alongside helping to organize the Thanksgiving
celebration (which has been gathering for 23 years
violence free), we have Hands on Housing, which, for
example, brings Jews and Muslims together to help fix
So, being informed of the fact with, now, only three
days to find a new location, knowing that hundreds of
people would be going to a place that no longer
welcomed us, was heartbreaking and shocking to each of
us on the board, Christians included.
And, then, the proverbial miracle happened.
Congregation Beth Israel welcomed the entire event to
come celebrate in their place of worship. Immediately.
Without hesitation. Knowing full well that this year
the event was being hosted by the Muslim community.
And, so, on Sunday, almost 2000 people of varying
religions came together to share their prayers, to
share food and laughter, and to learn more about one
another so that we can be a world of tolerence,
understanding, and peace.
My hope is that, one day, all hearts can be moved to
recognize that God is too big to fit inside one
religion. That the Golden Rule applies to each of us
as individuals, which might be why religion has their
own version of the same thought. I've included four
In everything, do unto others as you would have them
do unto you, for this is the law and the
prophets.....Jesus, Matthew 7:12
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for
others what you wish for yourself...The Prophet
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 13a
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find
The Buddha Udana-Varga 5.18
Or, returning to my first paragraph of people of
different idealogy coming together, I'd like to end
with a quote from Chief Dan George:
" We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive."
Thank you for blessing me, and Happy Thanksgiving with
those you love...