Greetings friends! After a rejuvenating Thanksgiving break, the CURE is back! This week I wanted to bring you Thanksgiving reflections, and happened to read the blog of one of my great friends here at McCormick, Tyler Orem. He wrote exactly what I was hoping for, and so with his permission, we’re re-blogging his original post. Tyler is in his second year and is completing a dual MDiv and MSW. He’s also one of McCormick’s great deacons! Enjoy his post!
Before Thanksgiving I had the usual weekly joy of spending Wednesday evening with the middle schoolers of Knox Presbyterian Church, Naperville. We had recently completed a rather dull study by Tim Keller, so I had the freedom to make a stand-alone Thanksgiving lesson. The challenge was how to move beyond the annual “What are you thankful for?” discussion into something that might actually carry some meaning. Thinking about what should be soul-crushing irony in celebrating the cooperation and mutuality between First Nation peoples and European settlers, I decided to have a discussion about how we as relatively new people on the land have given thanks to those who were here before us.
I had my Charlie Brown clip all set up and was prepared to get up on my soapbox to rail against the systemic evils that resulted in the founding of our country and permeate society to this day. In short, I was ready to use my bully pulpit as the middle school leader to teach 600 years of oppression, destruction, and genocide in 20 minutes to a group of pre-teens excited about getting a short break from school.
Within the first 3 minutes I realized that my method was madness. This is a bright group of kids, and they were getting the intellectual gist of it. But my ambitious lecturing was obviously not having the desired meaningfulness. So, I quickly switched to the Charlie Brown Mayflower clip in which the Pilgrims learn agriculture from horrifyingly caricatured “Indians” and then sit down to feast. My goal was to point out how the characters were portrayed and how the tables for feasting were segregated.
Then one of my students raised a hand and said, “It’s like the Native Americans have to sit at the kids’ table.”
With that single observation, every person in the room got it. The sixth-grader gave infinitely more meaning to the lesson than anything I was going to teach. Kids have been relegated to the lesser table all of their lives and have a keen awareness of what it means to be pushed to the side, ignored, and patronized. The analogy for First Nation peoples is surely incomplete and too mild, but it works perfectly to help middle schoolers feel and understand.
My ongoing prayer is that we ever seek to make the table for feasting open and abundant, that there might be enough room at the mesa for all to sit together and share their lives.
In reflecting on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my expanding family whose love never ceases to amaze me, for the adventures being lived by my brother and cousins, for friends who regularly join my family, and for middle schoolers who speaker and understand with a profundity beyond me.
Grazie, Naa-ni, Arigatou, and Again I Say, “Thank You.”