Thanksgiving 2001: thoughts about gratitude

        This is the legend I saw on store signs in San Francisco on October 6: AMERICA - OPEN FOR BUSINESS. The graphic is an American flag with shopping bag handles on top of it.

        The message and image are open to various interpretations by each of us. As I read it, the focus is on the national depression that was deepened by the World Trade Center tragedy just one month prior. The sign exhorts us to do what any patriotic American really ought to do to improve the situation --- shop. Thatís where the term "retail therapy" comes from, isnít it?

        Even though commerce has its rightful place in society, letís remember that community has a higher value than commerce. If we are to strengthen ourselves and our country as a result of this or any other tragedy, we need to do it by taking steps toward building better relationships among all the people in our community. Those relationships include merchants, but must be extended to others as well.

        My foremost concern is with the implications that this approach has for our children. It reinforces the concept that happiness can be purchased. It says that we rebound from adversity by having the right new shoes, the watch that goes with each outfit, the latest hairstyle.

        Thanksgiving is a good time to focus on the community-building that begins in our homes. Every household chore we do is an opportunity to serve as a reminder of appreciation.

        For example, while washing the dishes, focus on gratitude for the meal just eaten, the family members with whom we shared it, and the kitchen in which it was prepared. When I do the laundry, I am grateful not only for having a selection of clothes to clean, but for the very family members who have worn and will wear each garment.

        Because children will not necessarily see these connections, it is up to us to make this a teachable moment and point them out.

        As for me, Iíll be spending my holiday with a focus on the people of the community around me, rather than on shopping. I wish a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving to all of you.

This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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