Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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Tomorrow, millions of Chicagoans will bow their heads and give thanks for their lot. Many will have more to be thankful for than others; perhaps those with more will be thankful that they aren't among those who give more heartfelt thanks for sparse blessings.

Like the millions of "working poor" in the city and suburbs who work more hours at more strenuous jobs for less, and find themselves slipping deeper and deeper into debt and poverty the harder they work, while also having less time they can devote to their families. Chicago's broad shoulders are tested again and again, and each time the weight becomes more and more unforgiving.

Thanksgiving is interesting, because it is when we should be most mindful of the less fortunate, yet also not unappreciative of what we have: we have to blend those two feelings of being blessed and bearing a great responsibility. Thanksgiving, especially Thanksgiving in Chicago, a city of such stark and breathtaking contrasts, is a test of this balance.

But Thanksgiving, always my favorite holiday, is no time for gloom. It is no time for bourgeois guilt or the pretense towards empathy for the many by the blessed. Thanksgiving, whatever the dubious origins of the holiday, is truly a day to bow your head and acknowledge whatever God, spirit, or power you feel has some dominion over your fate.

Thankfulness, because it makes you realize just where you fit into the world, can work wonders: Calm the anger that scars you. Understand the fear that paralyzes you. Know the bigotry that binds you. Most of all, escape the apathy that shames you.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be forgiving. Forgive slights, because they are not wounds. Forgive wounds, because they not injuries. Forgive injuries, because they were not fatal.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to allow yourself to be happy. Make this Thanksgiving one where you smile at faces gathered around you because you know the familiar faces of the destitute you see every day on Michigan Avenue or in the South Loop or in Uptown who have only strange faces gathered around them.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be resolute. Resolve that you will never forget your blessings and take real steps to extend your blessings to others -- not only through charities, but through real effort to make your voice heard in a meaningful way.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be in awe. In awe of the city that can uniquely blend faiths, races, ethnicities, sexualities and class and, in at least one sense, can exist in peace. Think of the swaddled bodies hustling to work or to the trains, with the phosphorus-oranged skies reflecting snowflakes that augur a rough winter. Think of the families in bungalows from Touhy to 119th, from Edison Park through Austin to Beverly, many heated only by stoves, and believe that if only everybody was truly thankful, everybody would have more thanks to give.

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About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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