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Feed the Beast (That Feeds You Best this Holiday Season)

By Jamie Pacton

For me—a curvy, half-Sicilian woman from the south who married a Polish guy from Chicago—Thanksgiving is all about food.

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, ham, sweet potatoes (with little marshmallows on top!), green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pies, cakes, wine, cheese, are the focal points for my family’s Thanksgivings. We eat together, it’s what we do. But we’re not alone in this impulse.

Food has always been the heart of Thanksgiving. Photo by Jamie Pacton

Since the Pilgrims sat down with Native Americans centuries ago, Thanksgiving has been about the power of food to sustain life, give hope, and create community.

And reflecting on food’s powerful place in the Thanksgiving season reminds me of a Cherokee legend that offers a different type of sustenance this Thanksgiving.

You might know it already, but here it is again.

*

One evening, a Cherokee boy and his grandfather sat on the edge of the woods, watching the sunset. The grandfather looked into the distance, and the boy saw that something was on his mind.

“What’s the matter, grandfather?” the boy asked.

“A terrible fight is going on inside me,” replied the grandfather. “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is evil—he is my anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

The boy looked alarmed. “What is the other wolf?”

“The other wolf is good—he is my joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. But I’m not the only one with these wolves. The same fight is going on inside your heart and in every other person’s too.”

The boy thought about this for a moment and then he asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win the fight in our hearts?”

“The one you feed,” answered the grandfather.

*

So, the Thanksgiving food for thought I want to leave you with is simple (and perhaps a bit of a mixed metaphor, but so be it):

We are what we eat.

We can control so little as parents (especially when parenting a child with special needs), but we can choose which wolf we feed.

We can nourish our joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith if we constantly invite them to the table.

So, my friends, this Thanksgiving season, gather, eat, be merry, and give thanks with your loved ones.

Photo from Jamie PactonBut be sure to bring your best beast to the feast with you because it will feed you long after the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies, and Thanksgiving goodies are gone.

Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

***

 

About the Author

Photo from Jamie PactonJamie Pacton lives, teaches, and writes near the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. She’s a Columnist and Contributing Editor at the Autism and Aspergers Digest and her work has appeared in The Writer, Cricket, Parents, and many other publications. When she’s not grading papers or at her computer working on her YA novel, she’s usually at the zoo, park, pool, or art museum with her two young sons (one of whom has autism, and both of whom are magnificent). You can learn more about Jamie at her blog, www.jamiepacton.com.

 

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