It's Thanksgiving, my favorite. And now the grandchildren get to ask questions.
Grandchild: Grandpa, what is Thanksgiving?
Me: It's about tradition and a celebration that happened a long time ago between a group of immigrants who came to a place in America called Plymouth Rock to celebrate their new freedom in a new country with people who had already been here for a long, long time. So, they had a harvest and a grand feast together and felt very grateful.
Grandchild: Grandpa, what are you grateful for?
Me: Well, that's a very good question. And you know what, it's something to think about every day, not just one day, a special day like Thanksgiving, but I'll tell you what I'm thinking about right now. First, I'm very, very grateful for you. And, I'm very grateful for your Mommy and Daddy, and your Grandma, and our whole family. I'm grateful for the love we all have with each other, and the rest of our family, and our friends. I'm grateful for the security we have even though sometimes that gets a little frightening. I'm grateful for our country, for the city we live in, and I'm grateful for all the beauty of nature, the lakes, the oceans, the flowers, trees, clean water. I guess you could say I'm grateful for everything that makes our lives so wonderful every single day.
Grandchild: What did you mean when you said something about security being frightening, Grandpa? Should I be afraid?
Me: No, Sweetheart. You should not be afraid. You should always be grateful for all the good things you have in your life. You're very little, so there are many things you don't understand, and won't until you get older, and that's OK. Just always remember to be kind to other people, no matter how different they may seem, how they look, how they talk, how they dress, and always keep a smile on your face. Remember that not everyone will always be as kind to you as you may be to them. But, you can always feel good about yourself, and that's the most important thing. Think of someone else as a person just like you, and sometimes they might really appreciate another person just smiling back at them. So, keep a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your heart. And, as you get older you will come to realize there are some people who have trouble on their minds and it makes life difficult for them, so they are not as kind to others as you should be. Just be aware that there are people in the world like that.
Grandchild: Are there still immigrants and people who have been here a long time who are celebrating Thanksgiving today?
Me: Of course. There are people you see every day whose parents or grandparents, or even they, came from another country. Those are immigrants. And, your family, a long time ago, came from another country, too. All of us came to America and now one of the best things we get to celebrate on Thanksgiving, and every day, is being Americans. The only people who are what we call "Native Americans" are American Indians. They were here centuries ago, and everyone else is an ancestor, meaning their family from a long time ago, of immigrants who came here.
Grandchild: So, we're all the same then. Does that mean all the immigrants are nice?
Me: You'll find in life not everyone is nice. There are some not so nice people all over the world. But, most people are loving, kind, and caring. And, if you are loving, kind, and caring the chances are you will know more people in your life as you grow up that are just like you.
Grandchild: I heard you talking about some people that want to keep immigrants out of America, Grandpa. Why do they do that, if we're all the same?
Me: There are many ordinary people who are fearful and there are other people who run for elected office in America, called politicians, who try to take advantage of those peoples' fears to make them think they can make it safer by keeping some people out of America. But, the politicians who are trying to keep the immigrants out are not being honest because there is really only a very small number of immigrants who would want to come here to hurt us. So, it's not fair to try to keep everyone out. But still, we have to be very careful to check the best we can to make sure the people who come in, just like our family came in, are going to be proud to be Americans and help make it a better country.
Grandchild: Why do they want to come here, Grandpa? Why can't they just go somewhere else if there are people who don't want them here?
Me: Sweetheart, America is the greatest country in the world. I heard someone say the other day what's great about America is when you come here you become an American. When someone goes to another country, it's not the same. That's why people come here. They want to be accepted and have a chance for a new life just like other Americans, like you and me.
Grandchild: Was the policeman in Chicago who shot the boy 16 times an immigrant, Grandpa? Was he bad?
Me: That's kind of the point. No, he was not an immigrant. Yes, he was bad. But, one of the things that is great about our country is that people, no matter what terrible thing they've done get to have what's called a trial so that a judge and people called a jury can decide if the facts prove the person did the bad thing. In this case, there is a video, so it looks like there is proof the policeman shot the boy and killed him, and 16 times means he was not doing his job properly.
Grandchild: Shouldn't he have been fired and gone to jail right away, Grandpa?
Me: Yes, that would have made sense.
Grandchild: Is he in jail now?
Me: For now he is. And there will be a trial.
Grandchild: If he's in jail, why are people walking in the streets of Chicago and protesting, stopping traffic, and doing damage?
Me: Because they think the policeman should have been arrested, fired, and put in jail a long time ago, way before everyone knew there was a video. So, people are protesting because they think someone should be responsible for some action not being taken a long time ago.
Grandchild: So, are they right?
Me: There has been a lot of violence, and shootings and killings in Chicago for a long time. Chicago, our city, has a bad reputation for this kind of stuff. The policeman probably should have been punished quite a while ago. And some people, like the protesters, think he is only being punished now because of the video coming out. It doesn't seem like things are getting much better. Someone needs to take responsibility and prove that there can be a better way in Chicago, and that things like the policeman shooting the kid and not being punished right away, and violence going on almost uncontrollable, can be stopped. So, the Police Chief, whose name is McCarthy, should be fired by the Mayor or he should quit, and not because of just this one incident. He just hasn't proved that he can do a very good job for the City of Chicago.
Grandchild: Grandpa, did you ever protest something and try to block a street.
Me: Yes, I did. In the 1970s I sat in a street in Boulder, Colorado one night to block traffic because me and other people were protesting America's involvement in a war in a country called Cambodia.
Grandchild: Were you on TV, Grandpa?
Me: Ahem, well, a reporter asked me why I was there and what we wanted to accomplish.
Grandchild: What did you tell them?
Me: I was honest. I told them I wasn't sure.
Grandchild: Did it work, Grandpa?
Me: Well, we aren't in a war in Cambodia any more.
Grandchild: Happy Thanksgiving, Grandpa.
Me: Happy Thanksgiving, Sweetheart.
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