I’m Thankful for the Adults in the Room

I'm Thankful for the Adults in the Room

It’s Thanksgiving Week and I’m giving thanks. Grateful more than I can say for my husband and every member of my extended family, the roof over my head and the food on my table.

Grateful for reading–books, newspapers, articles, essays. Reading is a gift that I indulge in every day. (Thanks, Mom, for taking good care of my eyes when I was a kid.) And this week I’ve read some amazing ideas from THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. What room, you ask? Wide-spread, global, you name it.


The basic definition: fully developed and mature.  That doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t get at the heart of my message. When I examined the origins of the word from Latin, French, well–this is more like it: to become mature, grow up, to nurse, feed nourish.

NOURISH, YES. The adult in the room should be someone who GIVES US SOMETHING POSITIVE, something we feel grateful for, something that FEEDS US, whether in words or in deeds.

This past week I decided to be on the lookout for “adults in the room,” people who could speak to me through their writing, their words. People who could give me a message that filled me up. I found a few.

THE FIRST from Kevin Kelly.

I have been reading excerpts from THIS I BELIEVE and when I read Kevin Kelly’s, it touched me deeply. The words reproduced here are adapted from a Christmas card he sent to family and friends in 2007I urge you to go to the link above and read the entire letter.

One year I rode my bicycle across America. In the evenings I’d scout houses for a likely yard to camp in. I’d ring the bell and say, “I’d like to pitch my tent tonight where I have permission. I’ve just eaten dinner, and I’ll be gone first thing in the morning.” I was never turned away, and there was always more, like an invitation into their home. My job at that moment was clear: I was to relate my adventure, and in the retelling of what happened so far, they would get to vicariously ride a bicycle across America — In exchange I would get a place to camp and a dish of ice cream.

When the miracle flows, it flows both ways. With each gift the threads of benevolence are knotted, snaring both giver and recipient. I’ve only slowly come to realize that good givers are those who learn to receive with grace as well. They radiate a sense of being indebted and a state of being thankful. As a matter of fact, we are all at the receiving end of a huge gift simply by being alive. Yet, most of us are no good at being helpless, humble or indebted.    No matter how bad the weather, soiled the past, broken the heart, hellish the war, I believe…the universe is conspiring to help us — if we will humble ourselves enough to let it.

What a gift to be thankful for. That the universe is conspiring to help us. Something to ponder when we want to FEAR the universe instead.

THE SECOND from David Litt. He was in his twenties when he signed up to be a speech writer for the Obama White House. He takes a radical yet positive viewpoint on adults:

But here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the single most valuable lesson I learned in my 20s: There are no grown-ups, at least not in the way we imagined as kids. There’s no room full of all-knowing elders in charge.

True, people often referred to POTUS as “the adult in the room.” But it took me years before I fully understood what that meant. As much as I admire and respect him, President Obama wasn’t perfect… What made Obama the adult in the room was the way he defined his priorities. Children strive only for pleasure; adults strive for fulfillment. Children demand adoration; adults earn respect. Children find worth in what they acquire; adults find worth in the responsibilities they bear…And while it turns out the world has no all-powerful grown-ups, it has an overwhelming number of children. They come in all ages, from every walk of life and every corner of the political map…but we will have to be our own grown-ups. We will have to save ourselves. That’s the idea at the heart of democracy. None of us is the best of We, the People. But we are all we’ve got — and if each of us does their part, we’re good enough.

THE THIRD from Michael Eric Dyson. A Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, this is taken from his recent book: TEARS WE CANNOT STOP.

Beloved, your participation in protests, rallies, local community meetings, and the like makes a huge difference. When we gather to express grief, outrage, and dissent, your presence sends the signal that this is not “just a black thing.” It is, instead, an American thing. …Your presence also puts your bodies and reputations on the line by identifying you with folk you are not supposed to have much in common with. Your presence adds great moral weight to the gathering. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but for now, it is.

THE FOURTH from Marilynne Robinson, author. This taken from her first novel, Housekeeping. If you had time to read it at your Thanksgiving table, that would be something.

“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”


Thanks to Jade Keller for this amazing image.