I think it’s a residual memory from tape players played in kindergarten days while we carefully made Pilgrim hats with big yellow buckles out of construction paper. Every time Thanksgiving rolls around, a little Shaker ditty runs through my head. “’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, ’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ’twill be in the valley of love and delight.”
If you haven’t heard the song, I’d encourage you to give it a listen (it’s called “Simple Gifts”—and don’t miss the triumph of Aaron Copland’s interpretation). I’ve always loved it, and this year it’s speaking to me with particular poignance. For the first time ever, I’ll be away from my family both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas, across the Atlantic in a new place where, for all its whimsy, they don’t have a lot of canned pumpkin. The overwhelming pandemic that in some ways took a year away from all of us still rages like a storm outside. Things don’t feel simple. And I don’t completely feel like I am in the place where I ought to be.
But that’s the beauty of the song—simplicity is a gift. Freedom is a gift. And coming down where we ought to be is a gift—and we are where we ought to be. It may not be “just right” yet. And goodness knows it doesn’t look like becoming just right anytime soon. But one day, it will be.
This week, there’s a lot to reflect on. The holiday season is upon us, and it brings with it a host of emotions—stress, nostalgia, maybe longing for love or missing people who have passed on. It’s a moment of emotional complexity. Kellie Moore’s thoughtful reflection on her playlist for this week sets the mood before our Consider This writers give beautiful illustrations of how the beauty and joy of the holiday season can in fact be both sad and happy, longing for what we don’t have (like a spouse) or missing what we can’t have anymore (like all our childhood traditions) while still rejoicing in what we do.
But running through all of these reflections this week is a very simple undercurrent—gratitude. Life is complicated, but all of it is a gift. We might not have things that we want. We might not want things that we have. But everything has been given to us, and gratitude doesn’t require gift-wrapping or pre-planning—it’s simple.
I hope that this week is simple for you.