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Looking Thanksgiving 2020 right in the eyes

When I was an undergraduate, a band called Poi Dog Pondering gave a fantastic spring concert.  In the middle of it Adam Sultan, one of the guitarists, took over the vocals for a single song, one he had penned himself.  I’ve used it around this time in classes for years because of the way Sultan reframes the notion of the upcoming holiday.  Humility, gratitude (not because you’re supposed to but because you deeply are), and perspective–appreciation for everything, not just the good or happy, because everything is what it’s taken to get you to this moment.
Somehow I find myself far out of line
with the ones I had drawn.
Wasn’t the best of paths, you could attest to that,
but I’m keeping on.
Would our paths cross if every great loss 
had turned out our gain?
Would our paths cross if the pain it had cost us
was paid in vain?
There was no pot of gold, hardly a rainbow
lighting my way.
But I will be true to the red, black and blues
that colored those days.
I owe my soul to each fork in the road,
each misleading sign.
Because even in solitude, no bitter attitude
can dissolve my sweetest find.
Thanksgiving for every wrong move, 
Thanksgiving for every wrong move,
Thanksgiving for every wrong move,
that made it right.
Mistakes, misfortunes, wrong choices, bad luck.  Right moments, correct answers, luck, success.  Have to have both, plenty of both, as well as those long slow times of somewhere in between.  When Frost writes in “The Birches” that “Earth’s the right place for love/I don’t know where it’s likely to go to better” just after he’s rejected the notion of ascending to the perfection of heaven, it’s because he knows we need the sour to appreciate the sweet.  We must get a bruise or two, maybe a scrape, on the way to the summit.  We have to get many math problems wrong in order to learn finally how to do the calculation correctly.  We have to stumble through the notes and time signature again and again until we can finally channel Miles Davis.  And along the way, we look across the table, the trail, the room, the Zoom at those with whom we’re striving and struggling to do this thing.  Those who pick us up, dust us off, help us rejoin the journey.  Those who share the red, black, and blues.  Those whose lives intertwine with ours these days, building the memories that’ll linger with us always.  Those:  our sweetest find, who take this wrong and make it right.
Thanksgiving for you.  Thanksgiving to you, and with you.
Dexter P. Mahaffey, Ph.D.
Head of School

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