Thanksgiving's Hard for Many: Here are Some Reasons Why

Thanksgiving's Hard for Many: Here are Some Reasons Why

Karen Gross 17/11/2018 3
Thanksgiving's Hard for Many: Here are Some Reasons Why

We see all the pre-holiday hoopla. We read all the cards and catalogs. We see and hear advertisements galore.

We know there are sales - the infamous Black Friday sales, which you can get the lowdown on in the Black Friday Club, and we might even buy something for someone (or for ourselves). Everything seems decorated and celebratory ..... plastic and paper turkeys abound. For some, this is the start of preparing for the X-mas holiday too: presents, decorations; wrapping; eggnog. Santas start appearing.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, a time to get together with those about whom you care. It is a time to recall, if possible, how Thanksgiving even arose as a celebrated event. It is a time to eat too much and watch too much football.

For some people that is.

Sadly, many people are struggling with a myriad of issues and while they can give thanks for living on this earth, they are ill or homeless or food deprived. They are abused or experiencing toxic stress. They have been assaulted or shot or maimed. They have been abandoned or incarcerated or detained at a border or two. They are jobless or experiencing under-employment; they are struggling to raise families in neighborhoods where crime is rampant; they are discriminated against because of their color or their religion or their ethnicity or all three combined. They cannot travel home because of costs or fires or floods or feuds. They are serving in the armed services, away from their families and at risk.

I am not trying to play Scrooge and diminish holidays. I am just asking that we be mindful of those for whom holidays are hard. If you've lost a friend or a child or a parent, holidays can be particularly difficult. If you are ill or very very old, you may wonder if this is your last holiday. If you are a child, you may not like what you see happening in your home, particularly some relatives whose behavior is difficult or crosses some invisible but clear line and boundary. If you are deployed, there is sadness on all sides of the war.

I know that when children return to school after the Thanksgiving break and students return to colleges or employees return to work, those first few days back are tough sledding for some. We often ask seemingly innocuous questions: Did you have a good holiday? How was your Thanksgiving meal? Share something wonderful that happened while you were "on vacation."

Some of us answer these questions dishonestly -- to obscure painful experience. Or to feel part of the "celebratory" nature of the questions even if our own celebration was lacking. Or, we answer positively because we cannot face reality or do not want to share our reality with others. Teachers and professors, administrators and employers: be ready. Allow students and workers to ease back into their routine; give them space to breathe and process. Be there for them as a stable, constant supportive presence.

So, to all of you celebrating with family and friends, remember that in addition to giving thanks for one's abundance and freedom and shelter and family ties and profound friendships, there are folks out there who struggle mightily to navigate Thanksgiving. They aren't asking for pity or handouts. They are not snowflakes. It is just that this holiday, perhaps this year only or every year, is hard.

One more thing: people struggling don't all wear signs. They don't always "look" or "act" unhappy. They don't appear to be troubled. But, they could be traumatized or hollowed out on the inside, as the above image portrays. That's worth all of us remembering.

Civility, decency, respect, awareness, kindness: they all have a role at the Thanksgiving table and thereafter. And we can extend those qualities to those with whom we engage -- those whom we know and those whom we encounter casually in lines, in stores, on a bus or train or plane or at a restaurant or corner bodega. We can remember those serving our nation near and far for whom there is no real holiday --- at least not as we picture it.

For those celebrating, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And for those struggling or separated from loved ones for one reason or another, know there are people near and far who care .... for real. 

Share this article

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.
  • Connor Wright

    America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet far too many children live in families with limited means to afford food.

  • Jordan Martin

    So genuine. Thanks for posting.

  • Jamie Basnett

    Touching read

Share this article

Karen Gross

Higher Education Expert

Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and  Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.


Latest Articles

View all
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Companies
  • Environment
  • Global Economy
  • Finance
  • Politics
  • Society