Thanksgiving: A Time To Give Back To Your Community

Anjuli Castano/Staff Writer

2020 has been a year of polarization, isolation, reparations and so much more. The holiday season seems to have creeped up on us from behind, offering a comforting hug and a cool breeze, wishing us to breathe and recollect.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving has wrongfully centered a eurocentric nuclear family model, oftentimes othering indigenous narratives and values. At a time of profound learning and unlearning, let us recenter Thanksgiving to its better intention: giving. 

The act of giving to others manifests a symbiotic relationship. Nurturing our community in turn nurtures our innate desires to be a part of something greater than ourselves. If it is not possible for you to safely spend time with your loved ones, I challenge you to expand your ideas of community. 

The act of giving to others manifests a symbiotic relationship. Nurturing our community in turn nurtures our innate desires to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

I take inspiration from the Native Americans’ success in combating systemic elimination and having such strong connections with all tribes throughout the U.S. In hardship is where humankind finds solidarity. 

The viruses which plague the U.S. go beyond the common coronavirus and include societal inhibitors like racism and economic inequalities. These issues, I believe, can only be solved through collective mutual aid. What hurts one will hurt another, true both on a global scale and an interpersonal one. Unlearn the “survival of the fittest” mentality we have been socialized in and be open to your role in your community. Whether you feel like you have one or not, you do. 

Thanksgiving should be taken as an opportunity to center decolonization efforts, and a new openness to the intersectional and nuanced realities of politics and livelihoods across the country. Remember that Native Americans are not a thing of the past. 2.9 million natives are still combating egregious efforts of land theft and gross neglect from, not just the federal government, but us all. 

What the pandemic has taught me the most is that we are part of a collective outside of our immediate family and friends. I value so much more the ways in which I can make a difference in someone’s day just by contributing to the local organizations that surround me. I won’t be able to see most of my loved ones and although it is valid to be saddened by these realities, I honor them and myself by taking actions towards a more loving society. 

I remember one Thanksgiving season I won a whole turkey. I was 8 years  old, spending the day with my friend at her trailer park’s turkey raffle. It was one of my first remembered experiences with community outreach, and one which influenced my perception of the holiday. The community gave me a turkey and I gave a turkey to my friend, who before that had never had one. The simple transaction gave my friend a new experience and taught us both the gift of giving. A gift I have often taken for granted but now try to instill in my everyday existence.  

Remove the borders in the way you socialize and prioritize a greater good. To find a feeling of togetherness you can contribute to your local homeless shelters (Lotus House, Camillus House), community gardens (Health In The Hood, the Green Haven Project ) and grassroot organizations that are actively combating food insecurity in Miami-Dade (Buddy System, A Small Hand). 

The lessons we can learn from this Thanksgiving will carry on with us into a new future where community comes before personal wealth. Where individualism is rooted out and mutual aid supplanted. In this future, Thanksgiving can shed the binary as a remembrance for the colonizer or the colonized and exist within the intersectionality where historical accuracy and modern tradition are both honored. 

Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash.

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