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Maria’s Sunday Paper: Why Thanksgiving Is My Favorite Holiday

We are heading into my favorite week of the year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it represents everything that is important to me: My family (I just spent a few days with two of my cousins. How deeply meaningful it was to share laughter and connection with them), my kids, my friends, my open table, food, and my faith in this country.

I’ve thought a lot lately about welcoming people to the table—not just to my Thanksgiving table, but to my kitchen table on a weekly basis as well. I deeply believe that we all have a common desire to be welcomed, to be invited in, to be included—not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day of our lives. I know I do.
I’m deeply touched when someone includes me. When someone invites me in. When someone has time for me. When someone feeds me spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally, like my friend Rev. Ed Bacon did this week. (You can watch our conversation below in this newsletter.)
I was particularly struck by one thing he said to me. He said that there are so many good people toiling quietly across our country for good. Individuals who are deeply committed to making our country better. Who want to bring people together. Who want to forge understanding across faiths and across political parties. Rev. Bacon said, “Maria, these good people are quiet. We don’t hear that much about them, though, because all of the attention is going to those who are making the noise.”
I was so encouraged by his observations, which have come from his travels and time spent in cities across our country. It’s a reminder that as the noise gets louder—as the yelling increases—may we all remember that there are people working in our neighborhoods, our cities, our schools, and our churches for the greater good. Individuals like Scarlett Lewis, a mom who lost her son in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, then turned her pain into a powerful mission to help children learn compassion and love. She shares her story here in The Sunday Paper today.

Individuals like Scarlett are out there everywhere, and so much hope lies within them. Hope lies within each of us to be beacons of positive change. (Watch our new video celebrating Architects of Change and recognize someone you know who is moving humanity forward today.)

This holiday week, each of us can make a choice to reach out to a neighbor who may be alone and invite them in. Each of us can join a local church or non-profit as they feed those living on the margins. I do this every year with my kids and it’s one of the best things we do together.

For many, the holidays are a lonely time. For many, they create great anxiety. I believe that so many of the problems we face in society today are a result of this pain: emotional pain, mental pain, physical pain. People amongst us are suffering and in need, and we must be gentle with our communications, our tone and our judgments. We must welcome them all in and let them know that we can be in community together.

So this week, remember Rev. Ed Bacon’s words. There are more good people out there than any of us realize. May we all look for the good in people this holiday season and celebrate those who are doing what they can to move humanity forward.


Want to receive Maria’s perspective, as well as other inspirational content, in your inbox each week? Sign up to receive Maria’s Sunday Paper newsletter by clicking HERE.

P.S. For more of what “I’ve Been Thinking,” I hope you’ll check out my upcoming book, “I’ve Been Thinking…: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” It’s available for pre-order now. I was inspired to write it thanks to all of the positive feedback I receive from you, readers of The Sunday Paper, each week. So, thank you. I love being in community with you.



HEALING YOUR LIFE THROUGH CONNECTION: This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Architect of Change Ed Bacon, a retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. In an illuminating conversation, Rev. Bacon reveals how we can all free ourselves of fear-based living and deepen our connection with those around us.


MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM CHOOSES TO HEAL WITH LOVE: Scarlett Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis, who was killed at age 10 during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Instead of losing herself to grief, Scarlett has chosen to heal, and to move humanity forward, by starting The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation. It promotes social and emotional education in schools and offers a consistent message of compassion throughout communities. 


HOW TO LET GO OF THE PAST THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: As I mentioned in my essay, the holidays can evoke in many of us periods of sadness or loneliness, which is why I love this piece from the website, Tiny Buddha. In “6 Ways to Decrease Your Suffering,” author Maia Duerr offers insight on how to heal and overcome our pain. She writes, “While the pain can’t be avoided—it’s the price of being a human with a heart—there are ways we can reduce this kind of self-generated suffering.”


HEALING THROUGH UNIVERSAL AWARENESS: The holidays can make us all feel a bit more anxious. The filmmakers behind a new film called “Angst” want to bring hope to those who suffer from anxiety and remind those feel it that we’re not alone.  

AFTER A FAMILY LOSS, TWO SIBLINGS BRING HOPE TO OTHERS AT ROCK BOTTOM: This week, we honor siblings Jennifer and Sam Plumb as our Architects of Change of the Week. The Plumbs know about the nation’s opioid epidemic all too well. They lost their brother to a heroin overdose in 1996. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy. 


1. BILL GATES INVESTS MILLIONS INTO FIGHTING ALZHEIMER’S CURE: I was beyond thrilled this week to learn that Bill Gates had committed $100 million in investments toward Alzheimer’s. We’re all in this fight together, and having the support of someone like Gates is a big boost to the effort to wipe out this disease.  Gates also announced this week that he has invested $80 million into a planned smart city located outside Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a futuristic concept that could reimagine how we live and work. 

2. COMMUNITY VIOLENCE DECLINES THANKS TO UNSUNG HEROES: New research reveals that local non-profits are working hard to address crime in communities where violence was high. Sometimes, this kind of hard work can feel thankless and like it’s never enough. But this story is proof that those serving on the frontlines are, in fact, making an incredible difference. 

3. PRESIDENT POSTPONES DECISION TO ALLOW IMPORTS OF ELEPHANT TROPHIES: I must say, I was relieved Friday night to learn that Trump had decided – for now – to halt the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. This came just one day after he announced that he would lift the Obama-era ban on this activity. Trump said he put his decision on hold until he reviewed “all conservation facts.” I hope he means it. This type of behavior is horrifying and he needs to listen carefully to what conservationists have to say.

4. CASHIER GIVES THE GIFT OF KINDNESS: This is a reminder of how much the smallest of acts can still make a difference. Check out this viral story about a Walmart cashier helping an anxious elderly customer count his change at checkout.

5. TESLA UNVEILS ELECTRIC SEMI TRUCK: CEO Elon Musk took center stage in Hawthorne, CA, Thursday night, to unveil his new, state-of-the-art semi truck. His dramatic announcements always make the future feel like it’s the present.  



I thought this uplifting poem from Hafiz would be appropriate for my Sunday reflection this week. It reminds us that everything we are, and everything we do, is divine. I hope you take it to heart.



Get Empowered. Pass It Forward.

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a few new items to our shop! Check out our stylish apparel to fight Alzheimer’s, created in partnership with Art With a Purpose. You can also pre-order Maria’s new book “I’ve Been Thinking…: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to learn more!