We are, by nature, a tribal animal. We need one another, and the more we develop a community where we feel needed and appreciated, the happier we tend to be. We like people who are similar to us -- differences make us nervous, sometimes scared, even violent. We want to protect the known, the comfortable, the sense of security.
So why celebrate such a unusual holiday? Why, instead of focusing on memories of loved ones, do we embrace the scary, the dangerous, the stuff of nightmares? We love a thrill, I get that. But how, in our twisted little minds, do we celebrate death and fear and danger, while we allow members of our species to live, every day, without shelter or food or even water?
We compartmentalize. We assign values to issues based on how they make us feel personally. We are not logical.
What if there was a holiday dedicated to taking some of the excess stuff in our homes and finding people in need to give it to? Not just dropping it at a Goodwill bin where it will be sold to raise funds that create jobs, as good a cause as that is. But what if we actually went out and met and talked to the disadvantaged in our own neighborhoods? You might not even know that they're there, but they are, unless you live behind a gate. What if each of us took a few pairs of socks, an old jacket or sleeping bag, and a couple of sandwiches, and then just stopped and talked to the woman huddled in the doorway, the guy with the sign on the corner, whoever it is who sleeps in that tent in the trees on the side of the highway?
We'd find out that these are people worth celebrating. People who have made contributions to society, but fallen upon hard times. People who are educated and experienced, people who may have made a bad choice or two -- like all of us -- that had unexpectedly extreme consequences.
We like to think that the poorest and most desperate among us are in that state because they screwed up or weren't smart enough or couldn't compete. We assume they're mentally ill or on drugs or criminal in some way. Some are. Most are not. Most are just like us, except without all our stuff.
What if we lifted them up and thanked them -- thanked the veterans for their service and the mothers for their sacrifice and the computer programmers for their work that ended up being the internet. What if, instead of a holiday about death and gore and violence, we had a holiday based on gratitude and service and reaching out to our fellow man?
What if, just one day a year, every desperate, discouraged, lonely, homeless person knew that they would eat and have dry socks and that someone would look them in the eye?