Some Thanksgivings are harder than others. What I mean by that is that sometimes, our world may seem at such odds with itself that we’re hard-pressed to feel the gratitude we wish would come naturally.
The divisive political situation in our country pains many this year; it seems there’s no end to the conflicts and confrontations that divide rather than unite us.
And yet . . . I had the great pleasure of attending a performance of the hit musical “Hamilton” recently. Along with the sheer fun, exuberance and astonishing creativity of the work, there’s a profound truth that runs through it, which was brought out in one of the final scenes.
That scene brings to life the famous duel in which Aaron Burr, our third Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson, killed his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury. In the musical, at the end of the duel, Burr sings these lyrics:
“I was too young and blind to see
I should’ve known
I should’ve known
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”
I hear in these words a call for us to try, as best we can and with all of our hearts, to find ways to negotiate, resolve – whatever your word for it is – our differences. To, as a friend of mine once said, “drop the knife,” recognizing that the world is, if we so choose, wide enough for all of us to co-exist in peace, if not in agreement.
A great place to start is with family and friends. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have my share of ornery family, folks I don’t understand, don’t like and would prefer not to have to deal with. Yet here we are, at Thanksgiving, when those very people are the ones gracing my Thanksgiving table – and probably yours as well.
I am reminding myself that I don’t have to like them, but I can respect them. I don’t have to agree with their opinions on everything from our president to the cranberry dressing, but I can acknowledge their right to their opinion, and appreciate that they actually have an opinion. I can, if I try really really hard, see their essential humanity, that they laugh and cry, struggle and stress, just as I do, if not about the same things. I can make the effort to value them, to look for something to appreciate about them, because there is, in every one of us, something (usually many things!) to appreciate, if we just look hard enough.
In other words, I can remember that “The world is wide enough” for all of us, even when it seems that could never be. At this time of Thanksgiving, it certainly is worth a try!