NCOC Featured Discussion

Giving thanks to communities on Thanksgiving

November 22, 2010


Thanksgiving is more than just turkey and football and holiday shopping. Sure, it's a time for family to connect, but the original Thanksgiving was much more than that. We think of today's holiday to be a family affair but it didn't start out that way necessarily. According to the Smithsonian Institute, the first celebration occurred in 1621 between the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians, though it wasn't a national holiday until the 19th century.  The interaction of these two distinct communities in celebration is the epitome of the American melting pot analogy and is a reminder that the identity of this country is strongly shaped by the interaction of Indian Americans and immigrants.

November is American Indian Heritage Month so this week is an ideal time to highlight the importance of service among communities, when the talk is of families at Thanksgiving. The federal government’s Thanksgiving portal has a host of links to recipes, fun facts, as well as information about public service and volunteer opportunities (though you‘ll need to dive a few pages through USA.gov). The 2010 Civic Health Assessment found that 89% of people frequently eat dinner with other members of their household. These tight family bonds, which the holidays promote, lead to more civic and political participation. Volunteering or participating in another form of engagement as a family during Thanksgiving should help both tighten family bonds and get at the heart of the intra-community interaction first celebrated in 1621.

Engaging on the intra-community level pays an homage to the first Thanksgiving and continues the story of the diverse American fabric that is ever-evolving. At NCoC's 2010 Annual Conference, Henry Lozano of the Shinnyo-en Foundation touched upon this important interaction of communities as it relates to the larger civic health of our country. Lozano was speaking about the plight of American Indian communities, who are among the most underserved in our nation. To build healthy Indian communities, as well as healthy American communications, Lozano pressed hard on the interfacing of American Indian with other American communities, “It’s about moving Indian country [its physical location], it’s about moving Indian country, its values, its family values, its traditions and its understanding of basic community out into the general public”.  

Social media and the Internet, generally, are helping to develop a deeper understanding of other communities because of its ability to combine storytelling, action and mass communication into one. Lozano specifically called attention to the Millennial generation for their use of social media as a new type of engagement that bridges the understanding-gap.  What Lozano is arguing for is to move beyond the place-based perspective into the digital perspective - connect with anyone, anywhere and anytime (and without an appointment).  

Families with tighter bonds are the most likely to use the Internet to keep in touch with family and friends (Internet-use is also associated with higher levels of civic and political participation).  

We want to hear from you: What do you think makes online communication the most authentic or engaging?  Will digital storytelling create community bonds in the same way as in-person interactions?

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Piece contributed by NCoC.net commentator Karlo Barrios Marcelo, CEO of Karlo Marcelo Consulting, LLC.
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