I always think it's funny when Indians celebrate Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, the Indians and Pilgrims were best friends during that First Thanksgiving, but a few years later, the Pilgrims were shooting Indians.
So I'm never quite sure why we eat turkey like everybody else.
"Hey, Dad," I said. "What do Indians have to be so thankful for?"
"We should give thanks that they didn't kill all of us."
We laughed like crazy. It was a good day. Dad was sober. Mom was getting ready to nap. Grandma was already napping.
(Source: Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children's Literature)I love good writing that's sad and funny at once, because the combination has a unique power to inspire cultural metanoia.
Alexie's words remind us that one task of survivors is to give thanks for those who came before us. This Thanksgiving weekend, I'm reading OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell. As in BLINK, the author's superb storytelling keeps you reading, and his thesis is simple, diminishing the differences between survivors and high achievers:
Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky -- but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.I survived to type these words on my PowerBook G4 for you to read because of my great-grandmother's arranged marriage at age nine in East Bengal to a man three times her age, a blond, blue-eyed champion ice skater who fell in love with the descendant of a Rhode Island itinerant preacher, the medicine my father received for a toxic leg wound when he was seven, a woman in a Maharashtran town who decided to carry her babies to term and bring them to an orphanage, and many other moments in history over which I had no control, but which shaped my life.
Is there a particular person or event in your past who contributed to your survival, let alone your success? Leave your gratitude in the comments, and on Monday, when I return, I'll choose five at random and give away free copies of OUTLIERS to five (offer courtesy of Miriam Parker, online publicist for Little Brown, who knows I'm a Gladwell fan).
Enjoy your thanksgiving, fellow survivors.