For the week of November 25 thru December 1, 1998  

Search for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is lost in discontent, adrift in a sea of plenty.

If we’re not careful, the holiday could become an empty ritual.

In the Wood River Valley, neighbors are bickering with neighbors over affordable housing and the valley’s trend toward looking like everywhere else. The bickering is bringing out the worst in people.

The Wood River Valley is growing and no one is sure they like it very much. Open space on the valley floor is being filled with homes and businesses.

Many roads are becoming private and access to recreation areas is being blocked by gates and "No Trespassing" signs

The valley’s kids say they are troubled. They say they feel like adults wish they would go away.

The highway is bumper to bumper each day with cars and trucks piloted by drivers who annually forget how to drive in snow.

Living here is expensive.

Some businesses are cutting back services because they can’t find enough people to work. Finding people who need jobs is like looking for lips on chickens.

The Chamber of Commerce is wringing its hands because there may be dark clouds on the horizon for the ski business.

Idaho is no better off.

It is inundated by growth and all the problems it brings. It used to be said that Idaho is what America was. Now a lot of Idaho is what America is—ugly and befouled.

Nationally, negative events seem to be the norm.

The president is in danger of impeachment.

Saddam Hussein is again yelling, "Come and get me."

Jack Kevorkian is shoving the issue of assisted suicide into the nation’s face by having administered a fatal injection to a terminally ill man and videotaping the death.

The stock market trend line looks like its being drawn by a pen on a Pogo stick. Economists are beginning to use the "D" word instead of the "R" word for the state of much of the world’s economy.

It’s November. The roads are slick, the weather cloudy and stormy. The streets are full of slush puddles. The sun sets early. It’s dark and cold. Valley people are worrying about the season ahead.

What’s to celebrate?

This question is best answered by a 10-minute ride on a chairlift to the top of Baldy.

It all looks different there.

The world beyond—the one that’s full of problems--is a crystalline collision of jagged peaks and sky. The still vast spaces are perfect and peaceful.

Storm-laced Baldy is exquisite with white ribbons of trails. The bad weather suddenly looks like very good weather, indeed.

The towns below look like the imaginary places in fairytales, full of the promise of delightful surprises and warm welcomes.

In the light of early morning or the creep of dusk, the bumper to bumper traffic on the highway looks like a river of diamonds, not like a breeding ground for discontent.

Thanksgiving can also transform us.

Through the lens of the holiday, contentious public meetings starring the Bickersons suddenly look like great exercises democracy in which everyone can have their say without fearing a bullet in the back of the head delivered by someone with a different point of view.

Blocked roads look like an opportunity to reassure the fearful that neighbors are trustworthy and that visitors also treasure the valley’s gorgeous landscape.

Growth looks like a lesson in philosophy punctuated by realities we’d prefer to ignore.

It forces us to confront the great question: How may we live and not destroy everything that sustains us in the process? It forces us to try to find the better parts of human nature in order to create healthy communities.

Kids complaints look like invitations to communicate. They are an opportunity to offer help and encouragement.

The president’s sexual escapades and the threat of impeachment look like a chance to re-examine and reaffirm the constitutional foundation upon which this great nation rests.

Saddam’s threats look like tests of our commitment to peace and the delicate contradiction of using force to bring peace.

Kevorkian’s acts look like a challenge to face our fears about life and the pain that can accompany its end.

The world’s economy looks like a call for leadership, patience and resourcefulness.

Without such challenges, we might never find better ways to live. We might live mired in endless unchanging cycles of brutality.

Bad or good, the challenges are the way we see them. That’s good to remember in the search for Thanksgiving.


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