A tale of two Thanksgivings.

I love this American holiday. It is not at all commercial and just a good time to enjoy lots of food and the company of friends/family. And hopefully, a bit of football.

I know I’m going to have a great Thanksgiving. I have already decided that it’s going to be great. But I heard two personal stories today that really exposed me to the big divide in our country and the need for healing in some families.

My first encounter is with “John” – not his real name. John is Jewish and his Dad escaped the holocaust. His Dad recalls the two attempts they made to flee Germany. A benevolent Nazi told his grandfather they could leave (vs. go to a camp) if they handed over their tailoring business and clothes shop (to make Nazi uniforms). Their first attempt to leave failed as Nazi’s would not let them board a boat to America. So his grandfather negotiated to leave on a freighter headed to China. They would live in a slum in Shanghai for 11 years before coming to the US. In my conversation with John this morning, he told me that his father waited until he was dying before he told him the full family history. As he is telling me his family story, “John” and I are both crying because John lost his Dad recently, as did I.

And then the conversation turned to Thanksgiving. His wife is from a conservative Christian family. She voted for Trump and her extended large family are delighted that he is President elect.

He told me: “I love my wife, but we just can’t talk. Trump stands for everything I do not believe in. And my Dad was the most honest, upstanding man I know and he’d be appalled at Trump. Thanksgiving is going to be really hard.”

As we left the conversation, both of us with big red eyes and tears flowing freely, there was a joining of the hearts and minds. In some ways, this exchange made my day.

This afternoon I went for a personal pilates lesson. There was another student with her teacher and it was impossible not to overhear their conversation. Both are delighted with our president-elect.

The client, a woman my age was expressing her delight at Trump’s appointment of Nikki Hailey: “and you know she’s a second generation Indian so he can’t be racist.” They spent most of their conversation lauding the people Trump is surrounding himself with. I didn’t hear most of their conversation but at one point I heard them both agree that they love Newt Gingrinch.

Then I heard the young instructor say: “my brother is an independent and he hates Trump. We are not talking.” I did not hear the rest of the conversation.

Two wildly different experiences. So my only hope, prayer, aspiration, is that we realize we have much more in common than we have that divides us. Maybe this Thanksgiving there’s an opportunity to build some bridges without ceding the ground we stand on, or forgetting the least of our brothers and sisters.

I hope I’m not too polyanna.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

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