“My recompense is thanks, that’s all;
Yet my good will is great, though the gift small.”
–Thaisa, from Shakespeare’s Pericles
As an international student, I’d never celebrated Thanksgiving before this fall. Of course, I’ve heard about the turkey, the pumpkin pies, and the annoying aunts and uncles who embarrass you, but growing up in London, my perception of Thanksgiving came from watching movies. In one of my favorites, One True Thing (1998), Renée Zellweger refuses to wear a silly costume for her mother’s Thanksgiving party. Then there’s that brilliant scene in The Addams Family (1991) where Wednesday revolts against her summer camp’s misrepresentation of the pilgrims’ pleasantry and the native Americans’ savagery and throws pies at the on-looking parents, ties up prudish classmates, and sets the stage on fire. There’s also the excruciating Thanksgiving dinner scene in Scent of a Woman (1992) at which the tale of how Al Pacino’s character killed his friend and lost his eyesight. All of these represent (or misrepresent) the Thanksgiving ritual to suit the purpose of the writer and interests of the audience.
But when I was walking around New York City this Thanksgiving, I saw a generosity of spirit filling the city along with a strong sense of unity. I watched the Macy’s parade—a grand ritual—and saw how it brought together the community of New York. Children sitting on their parents’ shoulders gazing in awe at the balloons, while marching bands and flying batons were symbols of celebration not dissimilar to celebrations I’ve attended with my family—seeing New York in this light made me miss them and also be very grateful for them.
Community, family, and celebration are values we cherish and ideals we remember during Thanksgiving. It’s also a time to remember that we have much to be thankful for. In a world that sometimes seems broken and full of sadness, we must always have hope, not only for ourselves but also for others. It’s a time to remember the refugees fleeing their homes and the relatives of the Paris and Beirut bombings and too-innumerable shootings.
It’s also particularly relevant to remember those less fortunate when we, the students at Juilliard, are in such a privileged position to be at this amazing place. I began studying here in September, and every day has been memorable. And I had so many special moments over the Thanksgiving break: a fellow classmate surprised all the girls who stayed in the dorm with roses; watching The Reckless Moment, a heart-wrenching film that had me whispering Joan Bennett’s heightened American accent under my breath—good practice for Deb Hecht’s voice class! And looking back at our first production last month, of Shakespeare’s Pericles directed by Richard Feldman and Jenny Lord, which had us surrendering to the adventure of the coming together of souls. My Thanksgiving was made even more special by the photos my classmates sent of their Thanksgivings, which gave me a wondrous window into this truly American holiday.
I will always treasure my Juilliard time and friends. And I’ll be grateful to have a life that, no matter what’s happening in the rest of the world, isn’t fettered by prejudice and bigotry but rather reassuringly full of hope if one is willing to look for it. Whatever the future holds for my classmates and me, the value of being thankful is truly one that we should hold dear.