Loving our Neighbors: A Reason for Thanksgiving
by Kathye Hamm
In about two weeks we’ll be at the table with families to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though I did not grow up with this holiday as a young child, I will overdo it because I love to cook, especially for my family, and enjoy their cooking too. As at all our family gatherings, there will be so much food that we’ll eat for hours and give it away to everyone who comes to visit.
Yet I also understand the hurt and the painful memories of injustice surround the events of this celebration. It is not my intention to stir up and address any controversy mentioning this, however, as I write this article, I am filled with both joy and sadness – somehow I feel the irony of this celebration. When thanksgiving season comes, our society highlights food, recipes, and ideas for families to make the day more special. But perhaps we give little attention to those bodies, mostly immigrants, who plant, tend, harvest and bring these foods from farm to stores to our tables. They were in my minds when I recently attended an interfaith event sponsored by World Without Walls Coalition entitled “World Without Walls, World Without Cages.” People gathered there to protest, learn, and lift the voices of those affected by walls around the world as symbol of oppression and injustices. The event lifted up the voices and stories of youth and children in our neighborhood: children of immigrants whose parents are detained by ICE and youth working to close children’s prisons and build communities to raise leaders not only here in the US, but around the world. There were about 170 people, with so many children and young parents learning and supporting this cause: the many ways we are oppressed and oppress one another by the walls we build around us around the world. But, another world is possible where there are no walls of oppression, instead there are bridges of justice and unity.
So as I prepare myself to be with my family, I would like to lift up these children and youth as well in thanksgiving and prayer. I give thanks for their courage and hope for the future. As a Sanctuary denomination, I also would like to pray for those who are preparing to worship at the Border on February 18, 2020 in San Diego and Tijuana as the part of the Congregational Vitality Conference. I know that some people from our synod are planning to be there.
There is power in our mission trips across borders, as there is also power in our mission pilgrimages in our neighborhood. As a multicultural and pluralistic society, those we want to build relationships with and share our resources with around the world are also our neighbors here and now: our children’s classmates, our co-workers, or our fellow shoppers at the supermarkets, as well as those who plant and harvest our food and those youth striving to love their lives to the fullest by becoming leaders. Giving thanks for one another and striving to protect one another – is part of God’s work in our communities. Perhaps Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude to the God of love and God of all people and the whole creation AND a day of resistance to the systemic powers that separate us. Loving our neighbors is a calling and truly a reason to give thanks.
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