One City

One City

Can You Give Thanks for Enough? …the Real Thanksgiving

by Jerry Kolber, IDP, follow me on Twitter . For more about the IDP check out The Intderdependence Project website

As talk turns to turkey, pilgrims, stuffing, and Black Friday, I offer you the best and most accurate children’s Thanksgivingpresentation I’ve ever seen, in the spirit of a favorite book of mine Lies My Teacher Told Me. I’ve learned a lot more about actual American history in the past tenyears than I did in my entire thirteen years in the public schoolsystem. It’s not always pretty, but it’s good to know where ourassumptions come from


This year, my Thanksgiving theme is “enough”.  I’m nearly done reading Lynne Twist’s terrific book The Soul of Money, and she makes a great point throughout about moving from a you-or-me world to a you-and-me world.  It’s all about questioning your own assumptions about what abundance and wealth means.

Engagement with others too often becomes over-simplified into what is usually labelled the liberal attitude of “I feel guilty for having what you don’t have so let me give you some” vs. the attitude frequently labelled conservative which goes “I worked my butt off for what I’ve got so you better earn yours too.” 


Both attitudes miss the not-quite-middle ground which is that none ofus fail, or succeed, based on the five minutes we see in our personalrearview mirror.  There’s so much more going on that we’ll never beable to draw an exact flowchart of how we got where we are(cough-cough-interdependence) and it seems like more and more peopleare coming to the realization that the pathway to liberation for all ispaved with cooperation and compassion.

In particular, even mainstream religions are trying to figure out howto take the “Stewardship of the Earth” stuff as seriously as they takea lot of the other easier to implement words in the bible.  This is agood thing, but challenging, as “Stewardship of the Earth” has notmeant much more than “hey this is a nice place to build a church…orfactory…or McMansion” to most of us for the last one hundred years.


So this year, I’m going with “enough” instead of “plenty”.  There’senough food in the world to feed everyone, but solving the hungerproblem isn’t an issue of getting the food that’s over here hauledhalfway around the world over to there. It’s not about “earning aliving”. It’s not about dropping buckets of money on hungry populaces. It’s about empowering people to figure out that despite perhaps beingtold all their lives that they must be dependent on outsiders orstarve, that they have the resources -enough resources – to participatein the global economy. Inner city, war-torn country, sub-Saharanwasteland – there are people there with the same ingenuity as you orme.  Dropping food and money has failed. Any “let me solve this foryou” or “you figure it on your won” approach is destined to fail.


We’re not going to solve world hunger or climate change or poverty orrights issues with math equations, despite our belief in numbers andcommerce. We’re also not going to solve it by some unrealistic “returnto Eden” mentality.  When the native Americans were forced off theirland by the first Americans, we began a slow but steady degradation andhumiliation of intuition and instinct and earth knowledge in thiscountry.  Only now are we realizing that the way out of many of themesses we are in is to mix in a little magic with our math. 

In his book One City,IDP founder Ethan Nichtern makes the observation that”Assumptions…become the source code from which all our beliefs arecompiled.” If we want to know what our assumptions are, just lookaround at how we do things.  The world is full of options; how thingsare is never how things have to be.   The most compassionate act ofcharity may be sitting and listening and helping someone learn how toinvestigate their own beliefs about their world. And the greatest gift I can give myself is to deepen my own practice of mindfulness and meditation to become ever more present in this moment.

Every act of over-eating, over-building, over-agression, over-sleeping, over-dosing, over-over-loading, over-working, and over-anything comes from a fear that the present moment doesn’t offer “enough”.  But it always does. It’s just really hard to realize that on a moment to moment basis.

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Anan E. Maus

posted November 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

wonderful blog…strong and important words! I could not agree more. Giving/charity is, of course, an absolutely essential part of the spiritual path. There is no way to conquer the ego without giving. And no way to give without doing so quite directly, overtly and consciously.
And while all that is true, it still misses the point. Giving is deeply beautiful. It is a wonderful spiritual experience of depth. Advocating for giving is not opposing those who don’t want to give. It is saying, “hey, did you see the beautiful sunset tonight?” Giving is deeply, deeply beautiful: an experience any seeker would want everyone else to experience. It is just a call to see beauty.
The Dhammapada on giving…
Chapter 13
Verses 173, 177 and in 169, by implication
“173. He, who by good deeds covers the evil he has done, illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds.”
Wishing you and all your friends at the Interdependence Project a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Irina Almgren

posted November 26, 2009 at 4:45 am

Thank YOU for the post and the reference to the book.
Although we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Sweden I have my own routine of thinking of three things I am thankful for in the evening or throughout the day.
The questions I have been considering now:
How can I start living from the fulness, from the sense of having enough, from BEING rather than from the need (the way Ken Wilber talks about it), when it comes to everything?
For example, looking at my speech today at least for an hour, am I speaking out of feeling full or not-enough?
I find Vicki Robin’s work on making a shift in our attitude towards money as our life energy and her personal experience (for over 40 years) to be very inpiring and for the moment use it myself: She recourded an interview with Sounds True available as a free pocast from “Insights at the edge”.

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posted November 26, 2009 at 10:53 am

Thanks for this. I really like the way Jerry writes and thinks, regardless of what anyone might have said last week.

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posted November 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I just have to take issue with the assumption of the liberal attitude of engagement with others as being “I feel guilty for having what you don’t have so let me give you some”. I personally see it as “I feel guilty for having what you don’t have so let’s have OTHERS give you some”. One need to look no further than the “progressive” tax codes that liberal governments emrace to see that this is true…
As to the frequently labelled conservative which goes “I worked my butt off for what I’ve got so you better earn yours too.” Study after study has demonstrated that people who classify themselves as “conservative” give a higher percentage of their income to charity than those who classify themselves as “liberal”.
As one who was once a liberal, then a conservative, and now neither, it is interesting for to see that political opinions is one arena where most American Buddhists continue to concretize, solidify, and cling to…

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posted November 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm

@Brian: Very interesting idea re charity. Can you provide a link to a study on charity that you cite?
Also, here’s a link to a study that says our current tax system is totally regressive. The last time we actually had a “progressive” tax system as defined that Richer people contribute a higher income percent mayve been under Eisenhower. What we currently have is poorer people contributing a much higher share.

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Your Name

posted November 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Charity begins at home,thats basic and fundamental.We give charity because we have a giving heart.In doing charity works,we make sure its not an act of good deeds,but its an act of good will to human race and in doing so,we are showing the image of Christ in us,because we are part of christ body,He’s the vine and we are branches,the bible tells so,furthermore,the bible says,by grace ,we are saved,and not by good works that no man will boast…faith ,hope and love,the greatest of these is love…We are to make sure that every acts we do are done because our hearts are filled with love and compassion.

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