On Tuesday night Proctor's remarkable Dining Services team served a traditional “harvest dinner,” our prelude to Thanksgiving and our opportunity to be grateful for all that we have. The simple meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, salads, and pie drew strong praise from students and faculty. The turkey was moist, the salads varied and crisp. The pie on the dessert table disappeared.
The harvest dinner was enjoyed, gratitude quietly expressed.
Practicing gratitude does not always come naturally. Why is that? Expectations, harried schedules, the innate expectations we carry in our little siloed selves - all conspire against conscious appreciation. We mean to say thank-you, mean to write that letter, mean to make that phone call, but all too often the task slips. We carry on, let the sweep of time move us forward. We think that we will be able to circle back, but like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, fall under the spell of tomorrow, always tomorrow.
Sometimes we focus on what we don’t like instead of what we do. Don’t we all remember a time when we were reminded, usually by a parent, to be thankful? Sullenly staring at a plate of asparagus or French beans that voice from the other side of the folded arms barks: “Be thankful for what you have.” You poke with a fork, slide food under your knife, contemplate the dog, a napkin, and quick exits. Be thankful. It takes time to realize that it is not a command to like, but an exhortation to pause, reflect, and think about a larger landscape. And even when we do learn the lesson, we can forget it for stretches.
Most days I look for three things to be grateful for, and they don’t have to be big moments. Yesterday? Picking up one of Frances's ceramic mugs in Slocumb, reading a chapter out of Patti Smith’s book Just Kids, listening to Jon Beard’s talk about JV Girls’ basketball and the visiting eagles – small moments that add up. When gratitude is practiced regularly, hope seems to edge a little more forcefully into days. There’s a little more contentment. Balance. When I lapse, the days get a little leaner, the light a little flatter, time a little more brittle.
This week’s harvest dinner helped me reset at the end of a long term. I am grateful to Barb and Ty and Steve and Erin and Buffy and Nancy and Lisa – all who made it happen. I am grateful for that extra effort and the ridiculously good gravy. Mostly, though, I delight in the way it reminds me to nourish the spirit. To be grateful.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Head of School