The Courage to be Grateful

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Last Friday for our November 20th article (T Ching Classics: Thanksgiving Blessings), our editor Jaelithe Crislip selected three past Thanksgiving posts by the founder, Michelle Rabin. It inspired me to review all 14 years of these annual posts by our many different writers. One of these was an Irish Blessing posted by Regena Rafelson for Thanksgiving 2014.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home . . .

This year, 2020, has not been a time when light and laughter have been easy to find and share. So, while I wish it for all people around the world, this blessing actually reminded me of a different very familiar quote from the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1932.

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered,
serenity to accept what cannot be helped,
and the insight to know the one from the other.

We know this now as part of the program for AA, but this original version is a little different, beginning with seeking courage and an imperative to act. There were many things in 1932 that are similar to what we are facing in 2020. Perhaps recalling how we survived a similarly difficult past can give us courage to seek the light and laughter that the world needs now.

Could it be that turning from fear and frustration for all that we lost toward a sense of gratitude is what “. . . must be altered . . .”? Could it be that holding faith in love and laughter and believing in the future is an act of courage?

But what does this have to do with tea and the U.S. Thanksgiving tradition?

When I was young we celebrated this holiday in school by cutting different hats from large pieces of construction paper and divided ourselves into groups – either Pilgrims or Indians – and pretended to reenact the original gathering in 1621. I remember us focusing on some of the hardships that they survived but I don’t remember ever considering how frightening it must have been and how desperately they depended on help from people with whom they could barely communicate.

The Courage to be Grateful - Photo of three children in construction paper hats

As children in the 1950’s, we were taught that the pilgrims were celebrating their fall harvest with gratitude to the Native Americans for saving their lives by helping them preserve food for the oncoming winter and also for teaching them survival skills for an unknown world. They celebrated with a feast that included not only food but also, most certainly, with drinks.

Native American Herbs for Tea

And much of what they taught was about the healing herbs, many of which were unrecognizable to these early immigrants. And some of these were brewed and consumed as teas. Some of these were strawberry and blackberry leaves, sassafras root, bee balm, and birch bark. The Native Americans taught settlers to use herbs prepared to consume as a tea several decades before camellia sinensis was introduced to North America by the Dutch immigrants. Indigneous plants that the Europeans had never seen before were not only healing as teas but also flavorings for food and edibles that formed new culinary experiences. Their daily menu changed! Evolved!

The Courage to be Grateful - Photo of some tea from North American Herbal Tea Company

Now we continue to benefit from this wisdom. World Tea News recently referred to this as a trend, but one group of American Natives began their tea company in 1987 and continue to be a leader in educating the rest of us.  North American Herbal Tea Company has designed each of their tea blends inspired by a specific historic event or legend. Some of the proceeds fund scholarships for Sitting Bull College.

New Celebrations

Over the last decades of my life since kindergarten, we have entered a time when we are more openly questioning history. It is an opportunity for growth and change. Evolving. Now, many of us celebrate this holiday in ways that are less about our history and more about the mindfulness practice of taking time to consider the things for which we are grateful. 

If there is an aspect of this holiday that pairs best with the tea lifestyle, it is probably this. Including tea in a gathering – even virtually – can add a special note; a simple memory. Or, for those of us who must spend this unusual holiday season alone, it can be a cup of meditation or solace.

May you enjoy a cup of tea this year that helps you recall laughter and light with gratitude.

The Courage to be Grateful - Photo of tea being poured

Photo “Child celebrating Thanksgiving…” is a royalty-free stock photo by photographer “FamVeld” and is being used unaltered (source)

Photo of teas from North American Herbal Tea Company is used with permission

Photo of tea being poured is provided by and copyright held by author

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