I wrote this years ago, and I share it at Thanksgiving as a reminder of what I’m thankful for.

A Heathens Perspective

What I’m Thankful For…

In the hustle and the bustle of the season, with all of the distractions and obligations we find ourselves beset by, it is incredibly easy to lose sight of what we have to be Thankful for. Religious or secular, there is plenty to give thanks for in our lives, and I’ve always believed that setting aside a day to be thankful is a fantastic thing to do. It could even be something that we consider in our everyday lives.

For me as a student and a fan of history, I find myself more pondering the spirit if the Holiday in the scope of our past; of what has come before and established the profoundly solid base we find ourselves standing on, with little thought to even the most incredible yet commonplace things we otherwise take for granted in our day to day routine.

With that in…

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Embrace Your Adversity

Be Thankful for it.

Look, we get it.

Life is hard. It’s not easy to deal with adversity, or think that the world at large is in chaos and things can get ugly- and that they often do. It’s not easy to see why people do things that you don’t think make any sense, and you want everything to be easy and nice.

But it isn’t. Life is hard and you make the best of it that you can. There are bad things that happen to people of all stripes, and there are bad people who have no concern for what your pretty little life has in store for you. Still, you take what you have and you do what you can, where you are to make your little corner of your world even just a little better. If enough people did that, life for everyone could be so much more amazing!

And life is hard for a reason. If we didn’t have to surmount adversity, conquer our fears, reach out and help others, or fight for what we think is right we would never grow, never become more than we are. We would stagnate in the unchanging swamp of utopia, dying off one by one, un-noticed by our peers who refuse to deal with the unpleasantness of death and unremembered for accomplishments we never had the chance to undertake.

Denying the realities of life so that you can feel better about the pretty little garden of make believe that you have built up around yourself not only helps no one, but it’s selfishly self-serving and not very smart to do. Calling people names and denigrating people who do not think as you only serves to exacerbate the problems you worry so much about and disclaim with such righteous passion!

Embrace Life. Embrace the fears, the challenges and the people with whom you disagree. They are part of the world that shapes you, that molds you and that breathes vitality into your endeavors; where you earn your unique character and beauty.

They are part of what gives us a reason to be Thankful.

Nations, Tribes, Groups, and Meme’s

In a world that runs on headlines and soundbites, ‘humorous’ memes are at the heart of an all-pervasive disinformation movement.

The Thanksgiving Holiday is almost here again, and again we’ll be seeing the same sort of meme storm that we see so often when this holiday arrives or the subject of immigration comes up. You know the one; it’s usually a depiction of a Native American or a Native American and a pilgrim with some sort of stupid comment about refusing the ‘immigrant’ pilgrim permission to enter the country.

This meme and so many like it always irritate me. If I had seen it once or twice as a joke, maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much, but it’s so all pervasive and it so misleading.

I hardly ever mention this because I don’t want to be one of those people that harp on their Native American heritage, but I am speaking as a person with a mix of Penobscot and Sioux/Nez Pierce heritage. There was no consolidated Nation here at the time and not a single ‘nation’ that existed had laws that had anything to do with immigration. On top of that, many of the tribes were killing each other in raids and wars for dominance and resources. They did horrendous things to each other.

Also, there are indications that white Europeans have been here for 30,000 years or more. They traveled across the Atlantic in much the same way that Samoans and Chinese travelled across the Pacific. So who were the originals? It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the tribe that won out in the end. In the end, it was the European tribes that came here as all others came here over the long course of time and it was they who consolidated and organized a culture and a civilization that survived.

After the battles for supremacy were over, it was the most recent influx of people- groups and tribes if you will (Europeans and others)- who coalesced into a nation that stopped the constant warring and killing and enslavement that had been going on here for thousands of years.

Sure, there were great civilizations of Native Americans, but they didn’t survive. They disappeared or disbanded- we don’t know why in so many cases, but they did not have the fortitude to be a thriving society when the latest batch of Europeans arrived, so like in the past, they adapted or they faded away into the annals of history.

Exactly the way it has been throughout all of human history all over the globe.

Pretty Lies and Harsh Reality

It’s not a ‘Wake-up Call’ unless you wake up…

It’s funny, if you prefer beauty over substance you are considered shallow. But so many people refuse to look at an ugly truth and prefer instead to keep their eyes on a pretty lie, despite an ugly truth staring them in the face.

So many, distressingly many people, have bought into the ‘That’ll never Happen’ lie, despite the fact that there have been a (relatively) small contingent of people raising the alarm, cautioning others that there are ugly realities out there that we have to face, that we have to deal with, that we have to stop making excuses for, that we have to stop avoiding because we don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness or stress that comes with an ugly reality.

The horrible thing about the ‘That’ll Never Happen’ lie is that it is not something that we are necessarily told by others; we tell it to ourselves so that we can be more comfortable in our illusions, hoping against hope that the ugly reality never chooses to force us to look at it in our lifetimes. And when it is told by others, it is a lie that we choose to believe, rather than question it against a list of facts that stare us right in the face.

Life is not all rosy, nor is it all dark- it is a mixture of both that are not always in balance, no matter how ‘civilized’ we might consider ourselves to be, or how safe we think we are.

Paris and other cities past, present, and future are prime examples of what happens when a culture chooses to refuse to recognize the realities of life and deal with the vagaries, and to only look at the pretty things that make them feel good.

Pretending something isn’t there never makes it go away; it only gives it time to grow bigger and possibly more destructive.

Take time to smell the flowers, to feel the breeze, and to love without reservation; but keep your head on a swivel as you do. No matter how hard you work to keep the wolves at bay, they are never as far away as you think.

And they have no regard for your pretty illusions.

A Secret of the Strong

I’m going to tell you a secret.

Well, maybe not so much a secret as a barely known fact.

Many of us have that one really strong go-to person in our life. That person that stands as an anchor point in our tumultuous lives; that person that makes time to listen when we need them, who doles out advice that we might not take, but we can see and absorb the wisdom in their thoughts.

Or it might be someone that we never even go to, but simply an individual that stands as a symbol of strength and fortitude. The person that, just by being there, by remaining calm and rational; assures us that we can make it, too.

In our minds that person often stands as a paragon of our given values. A wellspring of those strengths that we feel we lack. Flawless in their own inner strength and self-confidence, rarely, if ever, really knowing a single moment of self-doubt, or experiencing a chink in their shining armor of fortitude and conviction of their place in this crazy world.

Some very lucky people may know more than one of these folks, but that is not the norm because they are exceedingly rare. They are not your everyday person. They are often one person amongst a group of friends.

And yet they are often very alone.

For many of those individuals, they love what they do for others. They take pride in the fact that they provide something so precious to so many people. They stand alone in their role and they are wary of anything that might compromise it.

And that sets them apart.

You see, most of those really strong people don’t have what so many take for granted. They don’t have what they so generously are for others. They don’t have a go-to person like themselves.

Certainly that is what so many admire about them. They don’t need such a person! That is what we admire about them, what we revere in them. They are the epitome of personal strength!

At least, that’s what we tell ourselves. And certainly so many of those strong people tell that to themselves as well. They persevere, pushing forward, back straight, mind clear, unwavering in their own resilience and durability. Because they know that the moment there is any doubt that they can fulfill that role, that anyone suspects they have even an inkling of self-doubt or indulge in a second of self-criticism, people will stop coming to them.

That thought is devastating.

Because for many of those strong people, they are so set apart that their status has become central to their own lives. It can become their purpose, or at the very least their largest driving purpose; their raison d’etre, so to speak.

They may be surrounded by friends and admirers, but their own strength becomes their prison, and they are still set apart.

So they cannot go to one of their friends, or feel that they cannot. Often, if they try, they are met with comments that to the regular person may sound innocent enough, but to that person of strength it is a clarion bell, a warning to not continue with an admission of any kind of weakness. Comments like “I never thought of you as the kind of person to have any self-doubt” or “There’s no way that you could possibly lack self-confidence”.

We don’t want to believe that the ones among us who keep us from falling apart might have problems as well.

These phrases stand as a warning because it happens all the time. People who love each other tend to refrain from going to one another if they feel they are imposing on the other, and if a person of strength admits any weakness, the ones who love them may hesitate to keep going to them. And this only exacerbates any problems.

Here’s the secret, all of need to have a go-to person at one time or another, even our go-to friends among us.

And those that stand as the rock for others need to be able to rely on that without fear they might lose their status, their purpose.

Just try to remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. Our heroes aren’t flawless, and are far from perfect. They need, too. They may need to wallow, or cry, or question- and they often do in privacy. It always helps to have a shoulder.

Bystanders, Villains, and Everyday Heroes

A Light Shines in Baltimore…

We’ve spent so much energy being angry about Baltimore- and other things, that we forget the Good people who step forward. We tend to toss a blanket description over everyone and turn our backs to continue a diatribe to those who see, or want to see, nothing more than the red meat details of woe and victimization. It’s a pattern we see repeated over and over, and it’s time to break the pattern.

In times of peace or in just our everyday lives, it can be easy to forget that heroes, people of strength, integrity and fortitude exist all around us, unseen, unrealized, and unappreciated.

Sometimes, it takes unrest and conflict for those vitally important traits to shine through in the people around us, and the real heroes shine through as a matter of course; quietly and without desire for recognition. They do it because they understand what is right, and for many it isn’t even a choice. It is something that simply Must be done.

But we all have that choice. When the time comes, what choice will you make? Will you be a Villain? Will you be a Hero? Or will you be a bystander?

Don’t wait until the time is upon you. It might sound like something pointless to ponder because you might never be called upon, an emergency or tragedy might never happen. But you need to make that choice now. And when the time comes for you to participate, you’ll know who you are and what it is that you have to do. Study after study has shown that the people who survive tough times or situations are the people who made their decisions far ahead of time, people who pondered what it is they would do in any given scenario.

We all know what we’d like to be when the time comes, how we’d like to be able to step up, or not. But that takes forethought, contemplation, and maybe an evaluation of who it is you really are as opposed to who you’d like to be.

Will you Boldly Question the status quo at the risk of being ostracized?

Will you Speak without fear, even if your voice shakes?

Will you Hold to the Truth, even if it costs you dearly?

I know the answers to those questions for myself. The question is, do you? Have you even thought about it?

Think Now. And when the time comes, you can be that light in times of darkness, strife, and struggle.