Taco ‘Bout It: Thankfulness

By  Taco Olmstead

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and already the divisive comments in social media posts are beginning to roll in. This seems to be an inevitable aspect of the holiday season that does little more than breed contempt and distract from the entire point of the holidays, the appreciation and thankfulness for our humanity, no matter how flawed. Honestly, I’m thankful that people have begun the process of understanding the truth of the past so we may correct course for the future. I’m thankful that people have given me the opportunity to engage in conversation about the history of the holiday and how I choose to celebrate all of our holidays.

We all know the story many of us were once taught about Thanksgiving. The happy little pilgrims and the happy little “Indians” all getting along and having a meal together. We also all know how it turned out for the natives and also the reason why I choose to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Yes, you heard me correctly, the same reason why so many abhor Thanksgiving is the reason why I choose to celebrate Thanksgiving. That reason is one action, one thought, one word; selflessness.

There would not have been a story to Thanksgiving were it not for the betrayal endured by the natives. That was the point. The native people, despite protestation of those within the tribe, despite the gut wrenching feeling that more of these “pilgrims” would be coming, they would act selflessly and not only feed these people, but teach them how to survive as well. This is the very best of the human spirit at work. To act with compassion and empathy is the embodiment of all that is good in the hearts of humanity, and for that I give thanks.

The most interesting aspect of the Thanksgiving feast was how it actually happened. While Tisquantum, a formerly enslaved Patuxet Indian, had not only taught the pilgrims how to survive but also negotiated terms of a peaceful treaty between the pilgrims and the Wamapanoag tribe. The first thanksgiving was a celebration to honor Tisquantum and at some point in the celebration, the pilgrims chose to “exercise our arms”. This wasn’t speaking towards an exercise of their biceps but rather a display of shooting their muskets.

There was obviously a great commotion from the firing of muskets in a land that had little experience with gun fire. Wampanoag scouts heard the gunfire and reported back to Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. Massasoit was alarmed by this and took up 90 warriors to accompany him to the encampment for fear that the pilgrims were under attack.

Upon his arrival he found a great celebration underway and both he and his 90 warriors were invited to partake in the celebration. However, there was not enough food to feed both Chief Massasoit as well as his 90 warriors. Massasoit then dispatched a hunting party who returned with four deer and they were promptly processed for all to partake of. The celebration lasted a total of three days.

Sounds a little too good to be true eh? Well, from what I have personally researched, the original party of pilgrims were never really a problem to the Wampanoag. What did happen however is that word of the wealth of land and natural resources spread throughout Europe which brought the Puritans to the area which eventually ended in bloodshed.

Again, why do I celebrate Thanksgiving? Honestly, because not only did I play the part of Tisquantum or “Squanto” in grade school, but because I so greatly identify with his character. I was born in America to a disabled combat Marine father and a Phillipine immigrant mother. I was then moved to the Phillipines where I lived for almost three years. I then was moved back to Vermont, where I was born at the age of five. I was the only kid in my school who wasn’t white, but like Tisquantum, I learned the “language”. I learned that not all people are bad much like not all people are good. I found that the children who once called me names due to my skin color and “different” appearance eventually came to realize that I really wasn’t unlike them at all, I just had more desirable skin. I learned that everyone deserves a second chance regardless of how they initially treated me. I learned that these same people, like Tisquantum learned, would eventually fight for and defend my life with their own if need be.

Thanksgiving is just that, a time for giving thanks and displaying selflessness towards those in your community. It is a time to put differences aside and celebrate what others have so selflessly given so that we might prosper in our lives. It is a time to be thankful to give.

I am thankful for each of you who have given life to our community. I am thankful for the life I have been given. I thoroughly enjoyed what Elise said today about being thankful and how accurately it portrayed what so many of us are thankful for, and I will share it here with each of you:

“I’m thankful for morning yoga workshops and bloody marys, late night golf cart rides and sunrise sets.  I’m thankful for friends who send me sappy messages, who share secrets and darkness as much as the light. I’m thankful for uber and friend’s couches, for openers and encores.  I’m thankful for color changing lights and talented artists, I’m thankful for conversations and bummed cigarettes.  I’m thankful for friends who comfort me when I feel weird, who give random compliments, who forgive my mistakes.  I am thankful for my husband’s ever-present embrace, the crook of his shoulder and the smile on his face.  I am thankful for my family who loves without judgement, and the loved ones I have in so many different states.  Today I am grateful for the bad and the good, everything that I take for granted…but mostly all of you magical people who aren’t afraid to say “I love you,” and share every ounce of their hearts without fear.”

~ Elise Olmstead

I can only hope that we all learn to be so thankful…