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Merry Thoughts at Thanksgiving

Merry Thoughts at Thanksgiving

By Dr. Cheryl Nixon, Berea College President

A tradition in many homes during Thanksgiving is to give everyone around the table a chance to say what they are grateful for. Another, more ancient, ritual is the annual breaking of the “wishbone” taken from the turkey. In England, the act was referred to as a “merry thought.”

Expressions of gratitude, happiness, and wishes for the future represent the best that is within us all. Ours is not the first era when events throughout the year caused distress, fear or worry. That we take a moment toward the end of the year to appreciate that which brings us joy and gives us hope for the future is a testament to the human spirit. We must find solace and strength in people’s desire to come together to remind themselves about what is good in the world.

This emphasis on the positive can seem difficult in our modern age. There are disagreements and troubles within families, which can mean that the holiday isn’t always joyful for everyone.  Add to this the stress of continuous news coverage, of being perpetually online and onscreen, and of conforming to expectations about how to look as we post about who we are.   With all the negative space these forces can create in our minds, it’s good if we can take a moment, not just annually but daily, to log off from the world and connect instead to that which is joyous in the present and what could be happily welcomed in the future.

So often, though, we do not take the next steps: to acknowledge the expressed joy of others and join them in that joy where we, too, can identify.  It is even harder to go the extra happy mile with them into whatever dreamed-of future they imagine, so that we might make plans to go there together. After we break the wishbone, we should then say to whomever wins: let me join you in your merry thoughts and happy dreams.

Joining each other in our merry thoughts is a way of finding our inherent kinship. By sharing our hopes and dreams, we understand that we are not so different from each other. Whatever physical, philosophical, cultural or digital reality we’ve focused on to separate ourselves from one another, it’s often the merry thoughts that bring us back together.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that the mission of Berea College exists, that I have been granted the opportunity to further the cause of impartial love, to express the truth of human kinship, to spread the joy of educational attainment, and to join in on the merry thought of a future without conflict and division. I know that last part is wishful thinking, but that’s what the merry-thought wishbone is for.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and forward-thinking Thanksgiving!

Berea College campus in autumn near the art building