Thank You Sarah, for a Sustainable Tradition

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So, what are you thankful for?  Better yet, is there anything so important to you, that you will spend a week, a season, a year or a lifetime championing it?

Thanksgiving represents such an example of commitment to push for change while maintaining the courage of your convictions.

When the country was young, the traditions of the Pilgrims and Native Americans were practiced only in New England, and at different times of year.  But one woman had an idea at a time when only the 4th of July and Washington’s birthday were nationally celebrated holidays.

Sarah Josepha Hale, considered a “heroine with a pen,” was widowed, penniless with five small children and supported herself with poetry and sewing.  At 39, Hale wrote her first novel, “Northwood,” then authored two dozen books, and hundreds of poems, including the best known nursery rhyme in the English language, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

And for Sarah Hale, Thanksgiving could be a therapeutic holiday:  “There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which whole communities participate.  They bring out … the best sympathies in our nature.”

She wrote thousands of letters in her own hand, and had other women do the same, for almost 40 years, and to five presidents.  Think about that next time you decide to go to the podium and address City Council, or choose to write a letter to the editor.

Hale wrote in an 1859 editorial, “If every state would join the Union Thanksgiving on the 24th of this month, would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution of the United States?”

As a result of Hale’s petitioning her elected officials, President Abraham Lincoln, at the end of the Civil War, issued the famous Thanksgiving Proclamation so Americans can celebrate Thanksgiving together on the fourth Thursday of Movember.  (Last column we learned there will be mustache wearing Mo Bros at the table for turkey, raising awareness for Men’s Cancer.  It is not to late to donate to )

What are your traditions?  Isn’t a family tradition, by definition, a green and sustainable effort?

I grew up just south of Boston.  I took field trips to Plymouth Plantation and saw firsthand the Thanksgiving traditions we emulate.

I have 37 cousins on both sides, so family events were quite an event.  We would visit my grandparents house, built by my immigrant great great grandfather.  Built to last.  As a kid, I thought the tiny three bedroom house that raised seven kids was huge.  We had to eat in shifts to accommodate the extended families.  When the family cops and fireman showed, they were invited to the front of the line.  Family feuds were put aside, at least until dessert, as I remember some of the best games of “Kick the Can”.

While attending the University of Notre Dame (compelled to throw in a “Go Irish!  Beat USC!”), each Thanksgiving, too far for me to road trip home, I was invited to the home of a family in Chicago, many times with my other roommates.  I was invited to participate in others’ family traditions.  Pheasant hunting, what beer they enjoyed with paired finger foods made from scratch, with love.  How they watched football, how they prepared the meal and, it appeared, picked up in conversation where they left of last year.

While living in Japan, my wife made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to share our tradition with 28 Japanese colleagues and friends.  And they shared their traditions of bringing gifts and the most unbelievably delicious and elegant desserts.

I have spent time in soup kitchens and hope next year to invite a couple Marines to my table for turkey.  Last year, I watched my youngest, then 4, give the most eloquent, relevant and entertaining grace, producing a lasting memory for a proud Dad.

Please, as you go through the holiday, please give thanks to those who serve in uniform, who fight for our freedoms and liberties, please thank them for their service, everyday.

As the book says, “Thank You, Sarah.”  Thank you for your persistence and tenacity that allows us all to enjoy the tradition of Thanksgiving and for providing a role model and pathway for how to bring about positive change in our community.

How will you be sustainable this holiday season?  [email protected]


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