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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

This Thanksgiving, To Find Your Bliss, Think Small


In the year 536, a volcano in Iceland erupted with such force that the ash darkened the skies over most of the earth for 18 months. It snowed in China that summer. They ran out of bread in Ireland. It was the beginning of the coldest decade in 2,000 years.

We are not living in the year 536. So there’s something to be thankful for.

As we come around to another Thanksgiving weekend, it’s possible that some of you might be having a hard time feeling blessed. There’s a constant tension in our politics these days that hangs over us like its own volcanic ash.

Some of you might be dreading Thanksgiving dinner because you’re going to be arguing with your family just as sure as Aunt Judy is bringing her famous cranberry relish.

Others might be spending the holiday alone, wishing they had somebody to argue with.

So let’s just stipulate that you might not have a 100 percent carefree holiday. That’s the nature of humanity. No matter how beautiful the spread might look, something always gets burnt.

In tense times it might help to think small, to look for the little things that bring a measure of joy and peace.

It doesn’t have to be much. The other day I was stopped at a red light on North Tryon Street. I was late for work, behind on a couple of projects, nervous about an interview I was doing later that day. And then this stupid red light had the gall to stop my progress. I stared at the light, waiting to mash the gas the instant it changed … and beyond the light, a few hundred yards away, I saw a hawk.

Hawks are purposeful. They’re either swooping down for prey or perched on a post somewhere, looking like they rule the world. But this hawk was, for lack of a better word, goofing around. It was cutting lazy circles in the air, surfing the wind currents, looking unconcerned about what was going on below. Maybe its belly was just full of mice and this was the hawk equivalent of slouching in the recliner after Thanksgiving dinner. No telling what was going on in that little hawk brain.

But whatever the reason, watching that hawk for 10 or 15 seconds was like a massage. It took my mind away from the worries of the world. I didn’t want the light to turn green. I was thankful to be in that place, at that moment, alive.

You might have something that always makes you feel that way – a flower garden, or a piece of music, or an old sweater that fits just right. Maybe your family doesn’t argue about politics on Thanksgiving. Maybe they do and you love them anyway.

I’m sure that even back in the year 536 when the sun was blotted out and it was snowing in China, people found something to be thankful for. This world is full of little miracles. Most of them we never pay attention to. But on this Thanksgiving weekend, if you need them, they’ll be there. Maybe all you have to do is look out the window.

Tommy Tomlinson’s commentaries appear every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. They represent his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to his commentaries in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.