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Photo by Jane Beiles

Featured Article

To Gather with Meaning

Without much effort, most of us can rattle off Thanksgiving’s necessities—the staple recipes; table décor; the logistics for the Turkey Trot, the annual parade and some sort of football. But when did you last interrupt the rhythm and ask yourself, but why? Why gather in this way for this holiday? Not to suggest doing away with any of it; rather, perhaps we need a jolt of meaning into this holiday’s playbook. 

How does your holiday “script” account for its purpose? And how do you design the holiday around that purpose—be it gratitude, reflection, humanity or togetherness.

Let’s first take a step back. Thanksgiving halts American schools, impacts the bottom line of retail stores everywhere, requires a ton of food + preparation, and (for some) involves a dash of familial hoopla. It’s a break for many; a huge amount of work for others; and for too many, a magnified sense of physiological or emotional hunger. But what’s the connective thread? Why go to the effort on this holiday? And although Thanksgiving may be on our minds this month, the same question can be asked about all holidays and events. Why gather? 

When we gather, we converse. And each conversation is a chance. A chance for curious listening, laughter, learning...the list goes on. Take a minute and recall the last conversation you had at a social event. Were you talking about the same old things? Or did you walk away from that exchange feeling fulfilled or inspired or humbled? All gatherings are made up of real people with real stories. The trick is incorporating real questions and real curiosity, so that a ho-hum gathering can become one that’s meaningful. Most of the time, the gatherers just need an invitation to be vulnerable. Because for most, just beneath the surface, something true and relatable exists. 

What can you do to make your next gathering—whether it’s Thanksgiving, a PTA meeting or a book club—more meaningful for yourself and for everyone who’s sharing the space? Although it may not be part of your typical script, consider incorporating a new practice with the intention of strengthening your relationships and maybe your own self awareness too. If you’re coming up dry, perhaps Thanksgiving’s dinner conversation could be an invitation for each person to share a truth about the holiday’s purpose from their perspective; or perhaps the invitation could be for each person to share a piece of wisdom for which they are grateful. Or, perhaps the invitation could come before the meal and preparations: who can we invite to the table so that we can make new connections and cultivate more gratitude? 

So, why gather? Gatherings invite the chance for meaningful connection. By being vulnerable, we give others permission to do the same. And when stories and truths and laughter and heartache are offered and received and respected, we become more aware of the connective threads of our shared humanity that hold us all together. 

  • Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Photo by Jane Beiles