Along State Street last weekend, I saw a reader board that read something like: “Thanksgiving: Celebrating dysfunctional families since 1863.”
I chuckled, not because that’s my experience (most Thanksgiving disagreements my family has are over stolen cribbage points), but because I know many people have come to dread the tradition. Some even find excuses not to have to sit at a big table with that turkey with the other philosophical point of view.
My friend Carolyn Lukensmeyer wants you to know there’s help.
Some Idahoans will remember Carolyn, the director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, who traveled to Idaho three times in the past two years to work with Idaho citizens and leaders. She led workshops, on finding common ground and talking through differences, with Idaho legislators and civic leaders, journalists and other elected officials. So she and her organization are pretty good resources for folks who want to avoid getting, or giving, a dressing down.
The NICD and its partner organizations are suggesting Americans use the holidays this year to try some new skills, or practice some old ones. They recommend that we listen to each other better and “avoid the food fight” this holiday. Some ways they say to do that:
▪ Pause to reflect on the need to heal divisions in our country.
▪ Take your own steps to encourage respect between people who disagree. Organize a small-group discussion, or get even more ambitious.
▪ Ask each other: What are you most thankful for about living in America? How do you feel about the deep divisions we see now in our country? What can we do to revive old-fashioned courtesy and find more effective ways to work together?
“These discussions can take place as people gather over meals or at events created to promote civility over the holidays. People can engage either in pairs, in small groups of friends, within families or in organizations or institutions. Most discussions will probably be about half an hour in length although some may be slightly longer or shorter.”
So, if you’re worried about how things might go around the table, check out these websites. The rest, as they say, should be gravy.
Bill Manny is the Statesman’s community engagement editor: firstname.lastname@example.org; 208-377-6406; Twitter/Instagram: @whmanny.