Tomorrow is that great American holiday known as Thanksgiving. Although it is a national holiday, it has sadly become in recent years our most underrated holiday-something to rush through and pass over on the way to the razzle and dazzle of Christmas. People barely take time to scarf down some turkey and dressing because their minds are set on Black Friday sales. For the kids at my college, it just means one more step towards the end of semester and Christmas break-an excuse to pack up, go home, and goof off for a long weekend. For myself and my colleagues, maybe it is at least one day (or two) without papers to grade and prepwork to do. Maybe; if we’re lucky. Other than that, it sometimes seems that Thanksgiving is all about the food; merely a stepping stone to that far more prestigious holiday. You know, the one that gets all the attention.
Yet there are many reasons why I prefer the quiet of Thanksgiving to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, a season that lost all of its meaning long ago other than how much money you can spend at the cash register. As a Native American, I do have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving-as a holiday, of course, not as a concept. But these days even those of us with Native ancestry still celebrate it, just perhaps in different ways-and with a deeper sense of what it actually means.
For me, it has become an annual day when I can finally just slow the pace down. I can sleep late, get up late, and spend some time just piddling or reading a good book. Our holiday meal is usually a tasty yet simple affair, since I only cook for the two of us and our six little furry babies. (I save the big, stressful family get togethers for Christmas). Perhaps that is one reason this holiday is so special to me. It means a time when our little family closes out the world and becomes all about US-not in a selfish way, but as a way of slowing down and taking time to celebrate “us”-to be thankful for each other and those little blessings in our lives. We spend 364 days of the year looking out. On Thanksgiving, we look within.
Michael, too, knew the importance of looking within. This morning, as I was thinking of the possibility of a Thanksgiving themed blog, my thoughts turned to the words Michael spoke to Rabbi Schmuley Boteach on the subject. Yes, of course I know Boteach is somewhat of a controversial figure in Michael’s life. Yet I can’t deny he has enabled us through his books to glimpse a very profound side of Michael’s spirit. I would like to quote this excerpt from Honoring The Child Spirit. It’s a passage I’m sure many of you are familiar with, but in the spirit of this special day, it bears re-visiting. (Note: This interview was conducted before the birth of Michael’s third child, Blanket. That is why he is not mentioned). It might be surprising for some to learn what this global celebrity and multi-millionaire actually had to say about the importance of thankfulness and gratitude.
Gratitude and Thankfulness
“I can’t take credit for everything I do…
There is always some higher source…”
SB: You don’t want to spoil your children, you don’t want them to ever take things for granted. You make sure they are not spoiled. Even though there is candy everywhere in Neverland, they can have it, you told me, only on their birthdays or maybe on days when special guests come. You want Prince and Paris to appreciate their blessings.
MJ: Well, when somebody gives them something, I want them to really appreciate it and not to ever be arrogant. When they get the smallest little thing they go nuts. People go “Wow,” because it is a little thing and people are impressed by how they are not spoiled because they think they get everything. But I don’t let them get overtaken by it. There is so much stuff in storage and we put it away.
SB: So children have the capacity to be spoiled and you have to prevent it. Like Grace (the children’s nanny), when we were with the kids at Neverland, she said she wouldn’t let them go on the big rides, she said “I want Prince and Paris to appreciate this.”
MJ: They don’t get to go on the rides much at all. Only on special occasions, like if your family comes over or a certain family in the area. I don’t ever want them to feel like it doesn’t impress them. That would be so disappointing.
SB: You always want them to share. You don’t want them to be possessive about Neverland and about the toys. Even when we have bought them presents and you say, “Oh, say ‘Thank you.'” Manners are very important to you, how they behave.
MJ: Yes, it is a reflection of the adults. It is important.
SB: You also don’t want them to be possessive about Neverland and about the toys.
MJ: Never like, “This is mine and this is not yours.” Urggh. I never want them to be like that. That would be so embarrassing. It is very important to share. We share our house. We let the public in. We let the children in from all walks of life, from all nations. They have to know that. We don’t discriminate in any way.
SB: You’ve often said you wished you had moments of celebration with your family, Sabbath dinners and such.
MJ: Oh G_d, yeah. People have to come together.
SB: Like what birthdays are about. This is a very interesting point. You’re saying that the whole purpose of these holidays is mostly as a meeting ground, as a rendezvous point, a context for people to join together.
MJ: That’s right, that’s right.
SB: It seems that showing gratitude to the people who gave to you as a child and even today is very important to you. Specifically, Berry Gordy who discovered you at Motown, you have always tried to show-even after you got the label and you could have forgotten about him-you always tried to show him recognition and got him into concerts and always acknowledged him publicly. So speak to me about gratitude.
MJ: Yes, very much. To be gracious and have gratitude and show appreciation for those who have been good to you and have lifted you up in times of need, who have been a great aid to your life. I have always appreciated those who have helped me down the road when I so much needed it so many times in my life. I don’t see how I could have forgotten the kindnesses done to me.
SB: Then there are a lot of people who you really gave them their break, like Wesley Snipes, whom you launched in a music video. Or even Elton John. I read he was one of your opening acts in Liverpool or somewhere.
SB: Yeah, before he became famous he opened up for the queen of England, several things like that.
SB: Do you think people have responded with the same kind of gratitude?
MJ: To me, showing thanks? Not the way they should have. Some do, some don’t. I think maybe in the future they will see, I hope. But you know, whatever.
SB: Do you feel hurt when people don’t show you that kind of gratitude? I know I find it hurtful if I help someone with something and later they just forget you and they become very self-absorbed.
MJ: Yeah, it can be hurtful.
SB: In terms of instilling a sense of gratitude in your children, you want them to be grateful for the little things, the big things?
MJ: That is very important. That’s right. And everything I do and other people do, to be thankful for the smallest little things, to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.”
SB: But usually when someone becomes very famous and very successful, they do forget the people on the bottom of the ladder.
MJ: I don’t understand that.
SB: Why do you remember them? How do you remember them?
MJ: Because I am sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions…and I am very thankful. I don’t know if I could have done what I have done without the help of other people on the way, really. Even those who don’t know how much they helped me, I thanked them later. Even those who do things from a distance and don’t know that it is affecting me from another place. Like writers and entertainers, people who died before when I was just a toddler.
SB: Did you ever call anyone up and say, “Hi, I’m Michael Jackson. I just wanted to say thank you because, you don’t even know this, but you made a difference.”
MJ: Yes. From Sammy (Davis Jr.) to James Brown to Jackie Wilson to Walt Disney, who I pray for all the time. I try to seek out their families if they have a wife left, a widow. Charlie Chaplin. I go to his grave and I pray. We (Michael looked at his children) love Charlie Chaplin. I don’t know if I could be the same entertainer without Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Wilson and Sammy Davis, Jr. I wouldn’t. They taught me a lot. About timing and rhythm and pathos and all those great things.
SB: Also, I read that you went to visit Charlie Chaplin’s widow?
MJ: Yes, I did. I was in my glory.
SB: Was that out of gratitude?
MJ: Yes. I had to say thank you to someone that was close to him. I said, “You don’t understand.” Or like what happened with Shirley Temple and I said, “Thank you.” She said, “For what?” I said, “For everything you have done. You have saved my life,” and she didn’t understand. I explained to her. Like the times when I felt like I couldn’t make it anymore, just having her presence there did it for me.
SB: Relating that to a childlike experience, do you think that gratitude is something that children naturally feel? You give them something and they appreciate it, they feel close to you if you give them a little present. If you play with them they don’t forget you, the way adults sometimes forget?
MJ: I think that is normal with children. Parents teach them to do the opposite, to be like, “Don’t talk to him,” to be cold and mean. But there are some good people. So I think they should teach children how to be loving and to understand goodness and real quintessential kindness. That’s important.
SB: Part of that has to do with humility. You are not afraid to admit that who you are today, a lot of people contributed to that. Maybe other people want to be arrogant about it and say, “I am responsible for my own success. I worked hard.”
MJ: I never say that. I am responsible for a lot of my circumstances, but there are a lot of people who have been there for me who have helped me along the way. I can’t take credit for everything I do. I don’t know if I can take credit for anything I do. There is always some higher source, just like a channel.
SB: G_d is the highest. So you are always thankful to Him and that is part of your gratitude?
MJ: Are you kidding? Of course.
SB: What would you say is the greatest gift G_d gave to you?
MJ: The gift of curiosity, life, love.
SB: Now that you’ve become a parent, does it make you understand your own parents more?
MJ: G_d, I don’t know how my mother did it. I have two, she had ten. I don’t know how she did it.
SB: Does that make you love her and appreciate her more?
MJ: Yeah, I cry more now. She was handicapped, she had polio and I…I don’t know how she did that. I really don’t.
SB: Do you feel a sense of gratitude to her?
MJ: Yeah, she thanks me, Schmuley. She’s always thanking me. She always says, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” And I go, “Mother, what are you talking about?” “Look what you’ve done for me,” I said. “Don’t thank me. Thank you.”
POST SCRIPT: 11/28/13: Speaking of gratitude and thankfulness, I just briefly wanted to touch on some other things that the MJ fan community can be grateful for this Thanksgiving. The two individuals who, in my estimation had the biggest hand in Michael’s death, have both felt karma’s sting in the last few days.
Randy Phillips has been canned as chief executive officer of AEG Live:
The reports stop just short at saying he was fired, only that the exact reasons for his dismissal are unknown. But given that he had just signed a five-year contract, it doesn’t seem likely to me that he stepped down voluntarily. (But even if he did, I still think it is karma at work on him, giving him no peace until he stepped down).
I had to make the image smaller so it would fit on the page. If you can’t read it, you can go to this link and find it full sized:
This is what I posted on Facebook earlier today in response to this news:
This is the best, most thankful news I could have heard for this Thanksgiving! Of course, the next question is…how much impact does a cease and desist letter actually have? It cannot stop an individual from performing the action in question. For example, Conrad Murray could still give interviews if he chooses to. But he will be doing it at risk of knowing that the estate may take legal action against him if he does. I don’t think Murray is in any financial position to risk a costly law suit. But we have seen before that this man seems bizarrely lacking in common sense. So will a cease and desist letter be enough to stop him? I honestly don’t know. I think where the real pressure needs to be applied is on the media itself who are giving him this platform. Murray is a sociopathic individual and beyond normal reasoning. He will look for any way possible to circumvent this order. He is also going to attempt to paint this as the MJ estate attempting to “silence the truth” which will make him even more of a martyr to certain factions. But that’s okay. Let the fool talk. It’s all he can do. I honestly don’t think too many are listening. To be honest, I don’t even think those in the media believe him or take him seriously. It’s more like, “Let’s see what bizarre thing comes out of this guy’s mouth next.” However, the pity of it is that, either way, they are still giving him a platform and lining his pockets. And with lined pockets, he will be even more arrogant and outrageous in his claims-unless he IS stopped. I said when Murray was released that the best thing he could do is slink quietly away and start his life over, maybe in another country. Since he hasn’t chosen that path, all gloves are off. I hope the estate nails his a*%.
I am sure I will be writing more on all of the above later.
For now, have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!