It probably won’t surprise you to know that Thanksgiving remains a holiday of mixed blessings for me. Created as a myth that denies the reality of genocide perpetrated against Native communities and now largely morphed into a shopping holiday, I continue to wrestle with exactly what we are claiming to be thankful for.
For the five years in Italy when I served as an IPM Project Coordinator at the Joined Hands Refugee Centre, I juggled wanting to share “the best” of the U.S. Holiday Season with my foreign-born daughter and what such a holiday might mean for the Refugee members of the JHRC. We’d travel the countryside to find the “right” bird and host hundreds for a special feast. Those shared meals in the heart of Rome reaffirmed my sense of the Holiday’s value and taught me much about what it means to live a life full of gratitude in a world where so many are left longing.
When I returned to the States in 1997, Thanksgiving was not only a welcome break from the workweek, but an opportunity to continue a tradition of service and shared sustenance. In fact, helping to prepare a meal for the less fortunate or running in a Turkey Day 5K to bring early Christmas joy to hospitalized children, was rewarding to me in a way that a meal replete with political and religious discord simply never could be.
During the past seventeen+ years with IPM I’ve found a new appreciation for the Holiday just as I have bristled at its false pretense. Thanksgiving has become for me—as I know it is for so many of you—an unique, annual opportunity to step back, count our blessings, and redouble our efforts to make a difference in a world that is hurting.
We all have much to be thankful for. And those of us in these United States have a daily abundance that remains the envy of many and yet we bristle when they show up at our door seeking refuge. We fear the other and remain deeply divided by class, ethnicity, gender, race, and religion. Hate seems to be on the rise and fear mongering remains the expedient form of political discourse.
But there is also a spirit at work in communities across this nation and around the world that speaks to another way. A vision of human thriving that is grounded in what we have in common, not that which divides us. A faith in the power of love to make change and a growing commitment to the hard work that real, sustainable change entails.
IPM’s II International General Assembly in Cleveland last month was a reminder of just how much is possible when we are able to spend time together, face to face and hand in hand. Whether we hailed from South Asia or Sub Saharan Africa, the Americas or Europe, we knew (and know!) that the world needs just the sort of person-to-person connection that IPM has been nurturing for forty-four years.
So as you sit down for a meal this Thursday, I’d ask that you keep IPM in your prayers and meditations. That you would join us in redoubling our efforts to honor the indigenous communities around the world whose stories of joy and thanks giving often remain unknown to us. And that you will take the time to slow down and remind yourself what a difference your time, talent, and treasure can make in the life of the IPM Family.
For it is your commitment to this International Partnership Movement for which I am most grateful this week and that continues to help us make all the difference in the world.
Best wishes for a joyful and peace-filled Thanksgiving Holiday!
Joseph F. Cistone, IPM CEO