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A Reflection from Liz Baxter, CEO

Each year we write a piece about gratitude…what we think of when we think of Thanksgiving – not turkeys, busy airports, and large gatherings – but how grateful we are for each other, the people around us, the places we inhabit, and the opportunity to do work that matters to people in the community. We want to leave this world a better place for our children and grandchildren, just as generations before.

A friend recently sent me a post sharing the teaching of Stan Rushworth, who teaches at Cabrillo College in California. Rushworth spoke of the difference between a Western settler mindset (“I have rights”) and an indigenous mindset (“I have obligations”). The Western settler mindset leaves us seeing everything through a lens of how it impacts me, the individual. The indigenous mindset moves us to think about how our actions impact everyone and everything around us. This framing has stayed with me for weeks.

North Sound staff and regional organizations continue to learn from tribal partners. Learning would not be as rich without amazing tribal leaders willing to teach us traditions and beliefs that have existed since time immemorial. This is a special time and place and we are grateful.

Our team is learning the importance of origin stories. Often, we celebrate Thanksgiving without taking the time to learn and understand its origin. Some might ask “why does it matter?” Because without acknowledging the past, we cannot move to a place and time of healing. Learning makes room for that to occur. [For further reading, see the New York Times article, The Thanksgiving Myth Gets a Deeper Look This Year.]

For me personally, I miss my family during this season. But I think of my parents, who didn’t have the tools I have to stay connected when they moved from the Virgin Islands to New York in 1953, then to California in 1965. They were dependent on phone calls that charged by the minute. By a measure of income, we were poor.  With six kids, we could only travel to see family every 3-4 years. Yet we never felt poor, never felt disconnected. Sharing letters, pictures, and phone calls kept us tied together. So, while I miss my family, yet they are still there for me as I am for them.

My eldest son studied in Beijing in the fall of 2001. Calls were by phone and $4.95/minute. It was so hard, yet we stayed connected. When he returned to Beijing the following year, we had the innovation of Skype. I thought it was miraculous. (And for those who know what a tech geek I am, yes, we were definitely early adopters!)

COVID-19 has changed our world. For more than ten years the public health community has said, “We are one flight away from a global pandemic.” And here we are, finding new ways to watch out for each other, recognizing our responsibility (or obligation, as Stan Rushworth might say) to do everything in our power to diminish the spread of this virus.

Is it sometimes a burden? Yes, families being asked to change their behavior and expectations. But for the good of all – that is why we must take these precautions. Wear your mask, wash your hands, use physical distance as a tool, and find ways to be socially connected with those you love and care for. It will help bring the day when we can gather again that much closer.

We look forward to continuing our work with you and finding more ways to recover and thrive together.