Who Stole Thanksgiving?

The Grinch stole Christmas, but who stole Thanksgiving? Where are the beautiful fall colors, turkey cookie jars and tacky orange pumpkin napkin holders?  It is all about Christmas already! Everything is red and green and mighty festive. We are not through with Thanksgiving yet! Wait! Do not rush! Life is already too fast! I am a reasonable person and understand we need to dig ourselves out of the recession; consumerism is our saving grace and Christmas is the biggest fundraiser of the year. But don’t short-shrift Thanksgiving! It is the most important holiday for me and I look forward to it for the entire year. Yes, you might say… you can enjoy it without all these holiday trinkets-who needs all this crap any way, it is superficial and it is substance that matters! But I like holiday accessories and I insist that all of the trinkets are up until Thanksgiving Day and then, as God intended, I go to 75% off sales on Black Friday.

People come here from all over the globe in search of a better life for them and a prosperous future for their children. Sometimes I meet people from places I did not know existed on the face of the earth. I have never seen so many different races and colors and so many different churches on the same street coexisting peacefully. Some older people never learn to speak English properly and keep their ethnic and cultural traditions, which not too many countries in the world would allow any way. We all come here, we survive, we find things to do and we are eternally grateful. This holiday brings all of us together and puts things in perspective, it reminds us who we are, where we came from, where we started and were we are heading. This holiday is the basis of all American patriotism. I cannot resist sharing some of the stories of my friends – first generation immigrants just like myself.

Yuri was a citizen of Belorussia.  During the civil war there, he packed his bag and bought airfare to Cuba, a long time friend of the Soviet Union. He got out in Shannon, Canada and asked for political asylum. He had with him one backpack and $5 in his pocket. Now many years later he is a practicing physician and the director of a large clinic. He will never forget why he came here. My housekeeper has college degrees from Mexico. She came here so her kids have a chance to move all the way up. She cleans houses and waitresses and still does not speak much English, but her older son is already in college, a 4.0 GPA student in Engineering and International Relations. She sacrificed her college education in Mexico to better her children’s future. Who knows, may be he will be our next Mayor or even the President.

I grew up in Soviet Russia and my friend Sujata in British India. It turned out we have more in common than one might think. I bought a sari and a Bindi on the forehead does not seems to be strange to me any more, but rather beautiful. I am an Ashkenazy Jew. Some treat it as a religion, some as a race. In the Soviet Union we did not have a choice to be religious, so for Jews of the Soviet era–it is a race. Just in case we forgot who we were, there was a reminder of it in our passports–line five: nationality-Jew. Our youngest board member Suhail, and our Marketing Development director Subia, are Indian Muslim. Both are first generation American and cherish their cultural and religious traditions. I think the American model of all-inclusive hospitality is the way to go. People do better when there is a great diversity, knowing each other helps us not to be afraid and hate comes from fear.

The Musical Bridges Board of Directors and staff are a true representation of America. We have Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Jews, Native American, Asian Indian, Russians, a Canadian, Puerto Ricans, and African-Americans. Many are new immigrants. Our programming reflects our diversity and we would like to think we are building World Peace, piece-by-peace. I insist, we deserve to enjoy every minute of pumpkin napkin holder shopping. In some peculiar way it awakens a feeling of deep gratitude to the country that took us all in and thankful we do not have a line 5 in our passport and nobody cares what color, race or religion we are as long as we do well together. Maybe I am an idealist but I believe that regardless of holiday trinkets and the All-American fundraiser we will be just fine as a nation. We are from everywhere and it is our strength. So, whoever stole Thanksgiving, please give it back to us. It is OUR Holliday!