Citing the Smithsonian in this morning’s Pioneer Press, Reuben Rosario described the first Thanksgiving dinner: “it was venison, corn, porridge, lobster and other shellfish. Goose, duck, now long-extinct passenger pigeons, and possibly wild turkey were reportedly on the menu in 1621 when 53 pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians broke bread together over a span of three days.”
Much has occurred on this North American continent during the four centuries since the first Thanksgiving. One can hope and imagine that the good meal which Rosario described included sensitivity, understanding, and companionship across races and cultures. A vision we should strive for our modern world to embody.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for the opportunity to put my talents to use for the benefit of the community – in partnership with skilled colleagues at Wilder Research, partners in other organizations, public officials, and residents.
I appreciate the opportunity to work throughout the U.S. and in other countries, expanding my understanding and learning from others who hold very different perspectives. I appreciate living in a country where research can supply an independent voice, helping us all to determine the usefulness of a policy, a program, a medical treatment, or whatever.
In looking at the projects undertaken by my colleagues at Wilder Research, my reflections move quickly to gratitude for their efforts. Because of the studies they completed, we know that children will get a better start in life; older people will live in settings better attuned to their needs; communities who have experienced trauma or inequities will take positive steps forward; agencies addressing the toughest social issues will do so more effectively through our research. Many more people, communities, and organizations will do better because of our efforts with them and for them.
In some respects, we wish we did not need to do portions of the research that we carry out. Our recent survey of Minnesota’s homeless population offers a good example. We pray that someday we will tackle issues of poverty, affordable housing, and mental health care to the extent that nobody finds themselves without an adequate place to live.
Nevertheless, as long as needs exist, we give thanks that we can do this work and that we can organize efforts to make the world a better place.