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What We’re Grateful For (Sometimes it's Big Things, Sometimes its Little things)


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The Free Press

Jonathan Haidt, Tyler Cowen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mayim Bialik, and Free Pressers weigh in. Plus: In praise of a Hindu temple.

Oliver Wiseman

November 22, 2023

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Which means you will sit down to eat. The turkey will be carved and ready. The sides will look irresistible. You’ll be eager to dig in. And then there’ll come the clink of a knife on glass and the request that everyone say what they are thankful for. 

For your correspondent, raised on a gray and rainy island where talking about your feelings is frowned upon, this kind of oversharing can be excruciating. But gratitude is underrated—and more necessary than ever, given the sorry state of the world. And so, ahead of tomorrow’s holiday, I asked some members of the extended Free Press family—staff, contributors, people we admire—what they’re thankful for this year. Here’s what they said. 

Walter Kirn, novelist and occasional Free Press columnist 

I’m grateful that I stopped in time. I’m grateful that I forgave before it was too late. I’m grateful for all the close calls that I survived so I could still be here with my wife, my kids, my friends, and my teachers and guides, without whom I’d be lost. I’m grateful that I still have so much to learn.

(Snip)

Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and author

In recent weeks I have often thought about how lucky I am that all four of my grandparents made it out of Eastern Europe and to the United States, all around 1907. Even with the rise of blatant antisemitism on college campuses and in some cities, I know that America is, overall, a philosemitic country (one in which Jews are rated very positively). I am grateful for strong shows of support for Israel and for American Jews from President Biden, Mayor Eric Adams, and many other leaders. I am thankful that of all the places, times, and roles one could be born into, I was born a Jewish American in 1963. 

(Snip)

Evan Gardner, Free Press intern and senior at Brown

This year, I’m especially thankful for poems. I never really appreciated them until this year, but I am thankful for their small moments of beauty for beauty’s sake in the midst of so much violence and conflict.

(Snip)

Bari Weiss, editor and founder, The Free Press

Teachers. In a moment in which I often feel the world has gone mad, I find myself reliant on those with far greater wisdom than me. Many teach me from beyond the grave; others, like Jonathan Rosen, Alana Newhouse, and Walter Russell Mead, are a phone call away.

Also: Tim Dillon. If you haven’t committed yet, it’s time.

(Snip)

Julia Steinberg, Free Press intern and Stanford junior 

I am thankful for my professors who still believe in a liberal education—even if that now seems impossible—and who have pushed me to go against the grain and to “speak truth to power” for what I believe in. I am also thankful for Caroline Calloway’s book Scammer, which is fantastic and a great respite from my CompLit 101 readings.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author and Hoover Institution fellow 

I am thankful to be in my right mind. Sane, clear-headed, and connected to my family and friends. Connected, too, to the causes I care about.

Last year, this time, I was in a place of darkness. I felt small, scared, and alone. I shrank away from love. I trusted no one. I felt lost and longed for oblivion.

It took time, and the unconditional support of my husband, children, and my friends, who simply refused to leave me alone. Most important of all it took surrender to God to get here, to allow myself to feel at peace with Him.

From there to see and feel the love of my family.

I am therefore grateful for my loving family, friends, and community.

Thank God, I can say now with no shame or embarrassment, but with joy. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

(Snip)

It Took 12 Years and $96 Million to Build a Temple in New Jersey

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Nov 21
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