Post-Thanksgiving Pearls

Some words are worth repeating. Words from my first blog (7-21-21) are a daily reminder for me: “…explore how to string pearls of peace wherever you find yourself on your life’s odyssey.”

Some days it is difficult to find wisdom pearls, as in digesting brutal news of mass shootings last week.

Some Thanksgiving tables were missing family members.

Sometimes there are few words, but lots of emotion that simmers on the back burner. What is broken in America? While gun safety is not the whole solution to what ails our country, there are too many guns available that are not intended for the hunters among us. Do you know anyone who went hunting for their Thanksgiving turkey? Hunting your work team as they arrive for their shift and killing them is heartbreaking.

However, we have many shattering topics for self-correction. We might start with telling the “real” Thanksgiving story. Yes, the Pilgrims fled their homeland to settle in North America to escape religious persecution. The rest of the Thanks-taking story needs airing.   

Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip tribes) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) made a documentary to reveal the backstory of Wampanoag-Pilgrim encounters. The Wampanoag tribe was uneasy with the Pilgrims, as they had experienced white colonization with previous newcomers who stole their food and supplies. Another detail not covered in my children’s schooling about Thanks-giving, Tisquantum, (also called Squanto) who served as interpreter and go-between, was English-speaking due to being kidnapped by European settlers and held as a slave previously.

Professor of Colonial American and American Racial History at George Washington University, David Silverman uncovers other unbecoming facts in his book, This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving. Initially our beloved holiday was a Puritan practice of two holy days or fasting days of praying. The mythical “first” Thanksgiving of 1621 has been a sugar-coated origin story fed to school children. The actions of New Englander Thanksgiving involved church attendance, not marathon eating followed by marathon Christmas shopping.   

The Wampanoag people thought their relationship with the Pilgrims might prove helpful in dealing with their rival, the Narragansetts; instead, many lives were lost in the colonization of our country. Today the Wampanoag people consider the arrival of Pilgrim settlers as a day of mourning.

November is Native American Heritage Month (established by the U.S. Congress in 1990). We must find more visible ways of honoring indigenous people who loved this land first. Let’s begin by teaching true history to schoolchildren.

Also, let’s join with groups like Moms Demand Action (established in 2012) to protect people from gun violence. There is a local event on December 14th (10-year anniversary of Sandy Hook tragedy). Consider the 600+ mass shootings since January, 2022. Atrocities against innocent people continue to shatter families.   

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

137. What did the Thanksgiving weekend mean to you this year?

138. How might people learn to settle differences using words, not weapons?  

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. I remain hopeful for a groundswell of a collective growth mindset in our country. Just as someone carefully put pieces back together in broken Native pottery, each citizen can make amends and help put together a better union.


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