Thanksgiving is in the air; the time when so many give their lives that
others can feast...on them: Turkeys, of course.
Thanksgiving means many things: A break from work, school and most routines;
overcrowded supermarkets, expensive airfares, a football game, and a lot of
well-meaning intentions to begin a serious exercise program...after New Year's

Recently, prompted by the upcoming holiday, a group of colleagues and I
gathered for a challenging discussion about ancestry. A variation of, "Can you
top this?" The idea was, given the upcoming holiday, to boast about how far back
one could trace his or her family lineage. Being a third-generation American, I
lost immediately and became a spectator to this event. The apparent winner, Jack
B, proclaimed he could trace his heritage to the Mayflower, stating that a
particular ancestor had been its Social Director. He proclaimed that this
individual had taught the Indians to dance in exchange for corn. More than
likely, he also had a bridge to sell them...

However, there is merit to this tale. Thanksgiving did begin with an exchange
of goods and ideas. And such exchanges are continued today as we celebrate. In
fact, on Thanksgiving, more people travel greater distances than at any other
time of year in order to make these exchanges. Motorists snarled in traffic know
it. The deer know it. And the state police know it, too. Other than the food--
the most obvious of form of exchange, the next most prominent exchange at this
time is ideas: Communication. Relatives who barely interact all year-- in some
cases, longer-- are suddenly thrust together to exchange food and ideas.

Like a child who suddenly discovers mom or dad have let go, and he is really
is riding a bicycle, many people who believe they really are not
conversationalists discover, to their surprise and delight, they are
communicating. And people are talking back (thereby proving their existence!).
You can run, but you cannot hide! Even the most silent among you is compelled to
say something. Thrust into this morass of well-mannered mastication-- a sea of
moving arms and mouths-- how can one possibly remain silent, isolated? It's not
socially acceptable. You can not get away with it! This is not exactly like
riding an elevator, where cramming together and saying nothing is totally
accepted...even if someone is standing on your foot! At the Thanksgiving table,
it's pretty difficult to simply grunt when addressed...the way you might at
home. In short, this holiday, may commemor- ate the beginning of a time of year
when people relate effectively with others.

How often do you get the opportunity to look directly at someone (not down at
your feet while shuffling back and forth), make a statement, hear a direct
response, and in turn, acknowledge that response with another statement?

"You know, Harold's daughter, Cindy, was already accepted to Cornell on a
"No kidding! for what, her music?"
"No, hockey."

As opposed to, perhaps, a more common scenario which frequently occurs all
year at home: "You know, Harold's daughter, Cindy, was already accepted to
Cornell on a scholarship?"
"...Hmmm...isn't there any ketchup for these fries?"

The latter is a variation of a common occurrence called a "disqualification." This is a form of
ineffective communication in which a statement is virtually ignored, as it is
either followed by silence or an out-of-context response. Sound familiar?

Generally, people like to believe that what they have to say is important-- at
least worthy of a response. It is in this spirit that Thanksgiving offers the
opportunity to boldly stick-your-neck-out (unless you are a turkey) and relate
with those individuals you might otherwise ignore. And in doing so, practice
some useful skills-- something worth taking home, besides leftovers.