butter or fear?



My brother was probably six. Maybe five. And butter was his answer to the Thanksgiving question–what are you most thankful for this year?

The adults all laughed. How charming. How sweet. As his older sister, all I could think was Butter? Butter?!? What kind of answer is butter? But butter was his answer, swift and sure. The question has been asked around every Thanksgiving table for years, but butter is the only answer I remember.

It is an answer I am still coming to understand.

I’ve not always been a thankful-for-butter type of girl. Especially when I was younger, I trended toward angst. My high school BFF was calling me Miss Emotion well before being an ‘emo’ was a thing. I was quick to see the complications. The difficulties. The uncertainties. The fears. The world felt like a big, scary place.

It is.

And it isn’t.

As an exchange student in France, my history class was filled with World War II lessons from that European perspective. We learned about the effects of everyday acts of love. The gifts from one person to another amid battles between one army and the other. The small offerings that made life during dark times softer, smoother, full. Moments of butter.

No generation escapes peril. No decade goes by without conflict. We are watching it now. And it can feel too systemic, too distant, for us to make an impact. Or we can feel too caught by our own individual lives, right here, to take on global strife. It can feel like we don’t have the time. The energy. The resources. The interest.

So don’t.

Don’t go there. Don’t do Big Things.

They are unnecessary.

This holiday you don’t have to take on extended family politics, never mind international relations. All you need is butter.

Butter is writing a check to a far-away relief organization—just a small one. Butter is donating groceries to a local food bank—just one bag. Butter is smiling at a stranger—just one time. Butter is saying yes, when those around you say no–even just a whisper.

Butter is hope, in the face of what is real.

Butter is what we pass along to our children. Butter or fear.

Because they are watching. And they are learning how to see the world. And if we can show them that the nexus between tragedy and hope is change, they will understand.

The answer is always butter.


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Butter. It is what I will be thankful for this year.

What is your answer? What are you most thankful for? We all have a story, I’d love to hear yours.

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