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Arriving at Appreciation of Our Differences

That’s a blessing I’m seeking to count this Thanksgiving

If you’ve seen the brand-new movie Arrival (and if you haven’t, do, but more about that later), you know that feelings find expression in different ways. Very different languages are the movie’s subjects. But there’s more to the irrepressible drive than language. We sentient beings (including Heptapods) are compelled to impress ourselves on the world, by whatever means we choose.
    This season of the year brings blessings to mind. In the spirit of the Pilgrim Thanksgiving celebrated with the Wampanoag tribe at Plymouth in 1621, we give thanks for survival, and likely in this age of plenty, for much more.
    Around the Thanksgiving table, you can find as many ways that sentiment takes form as there are people. (More, if you’ve invited aliens.)
    Language is a natural for me, and around my table I ask each of us gathered to find the words that speak the ways we feel ourselves blessed anew this year. Others at the same table find that as off-putting as if I were asking them to eat eel — which might well have appeared, smoked, at the first Thanksgiving feast instead of turkey.
    Sharing a feast is the expressive custom of the day, as breaking bread and eating pie celebrate bounty and reinforce the cooperation on which a successful future depends. For many, cooking at least part of that feast is as sacred as the holiday itself. Others find it such a burden that a restaurant Thanksgiving gives them reason for thanks.
    Let me stop right here to teach myself a lesson. Maybe it’s one you’ll value, too. Especially in these times when we’re nationally half oil and half water — and just as repellant of one another. Those differences are just differences. Different just like English and Heptapod B. Nothing to fight a war over. Not even a good reason to turn over the Thanksgiving table and break into a food fight.
    For many people, the outpouring of gratitude we all seek at Thanksgiving goes beyond words and beyond a good meal, propelling itself into the world in good works. In last week’s paper, we had our pie. This week — which culminates in America’s great feast day — we have good works.
    Staff writer Kathy Knotts gives us the broad view. The Boomerang Effect: Give, And Good Comes Back to You explains the rewards of volunteering in the shared experience of Fay Mauro and Lisa Spallitta, the just-retired and brand new executive directors of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center.
    “Volunteering makes you happier, healthier and live longer,” Spallitta says. Happier and healthier she can testify to from experience. Live longer at this point she has to take on faith and the conclusions of researchers.
    The story also gives direction if you’re looking to express your thanks in giving. The Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center is, as Mauro explains, “a matchmaker,” helping thousands of people each year find volunteer work that’s their cup of tea in some 400 diverse do-good organizations throughout the county.
    Our close-up look — which you’re sure to enjoy — is the story of summer intern Kelsey Cochrane, a journalism student at Gettysburg University.
    Kelsey came to us wearing her hair in a shoulder-length, swinging bob. Good haircut, I said. You should have seen it last week, she said. Thus was born her Rapunzel story, explaining that while she couldn’t cure anyone, she hoped her hair — 50 inches of it over eight years — would give hope.
    Different as we are, we can all find our way to count our blessings and reach beyond ourselves in our expressions of gratitude.
    While we’re at it, let’s each find our way to get over our dislike of one another for our differences. Arrival is the kind of movie that puts that message inside of you. I hope you’ll find that in it. Read Diana Beechener’s full review in this week’s Moviegoer.


Calling All Cookie Bakers

    Bay Weekly’s Cookie Exchange is set for December 15. Now’s the time to send us your holiday cookie recipes and stories: editor@bayweekly.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com