This Year I’m Thankful That Love Always Wins

When I want to think, reflect, and contemplate life, I take a walk past the old lighthouse near my home on Martha’s Vineyard. I gaze out at the ocean and revel in the natural beauty all around me. No matter how far I wander – all roads lead back to that spot. It’s one of my favorite places on the little island that has captured my heart.

I’ve been blessed with a career that took me around the world many times over. From five-star restaurants in Paris and New York, to street vendors in Thailand, to mom-and-pop sandwich joints in New Orleans, I get to cook, laugh, and share stories in some of the most amazing places on the planet. Yet it’s this bit of sand just off Cape Cod where I feel most at home. Which is why I feel so fortunate to spend Thanksgiving here. As an immigrant who came to the United States from England in search of new opportunities, it’s a bit mind-blowing to think that I’m spending the holiday just a short boat ride from where English settlers celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Wampanoag tribe.

I have so much to be grateful for. For starters, I’m the luckiest bloke who ever clawed his way out of Liverpool. Sure, the four lads who left town 35 years before me and played music on the “Ed Sullivan Show” also had a pretty good run. However, as a young boy learning to bake bread with my granny, I never imagined cooking would lead me on so many adventures and change my life. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe that my dream of moving to America actually came true 20 years ago.

The country has changed a lot since then, but I love it more than ever. I thought about those changes and the country’s challenges this week as I stood near the lighthouse and felt tears welling up in my eyes. The cold, salty wind was sweeping in off the ocean – but I can’t blame my tears on the wind. They came from a place of pure emotion. After witnessing months of tension between family and friends over this year’s presidential election, I was feeling a lot of hurt inside. I was grieving.

My grief wasn’t about a candidate or an ideology. It was about the lack of love, compassion, and empathy we’ve seen from so many people in recent weeks.

Change Starts at Home

I’m only about halfway through the process of being adopted by this wonderful country. Right now, the most American thing about me is my teeth. My dentist did a right fine job on those things! They look so good that some people think I got them from Steve Harvey’s garage sale. When I smile, I look like Walter Matthau in that “Dennis the Menace” movie.

Since I’m still an “American in training,” I sat as a witness on the sidelines throughout the 2016 campaign. It has been hard for me to watch folks turn against each other. I see families being fractured and lifelong bonds broken. But what occurred to me this week is that there is still far more good than evil. More love than hate. More kindness than bitterness.

The impolite, intolerant, and hateful are few. The overwhelming majority of Americans are loving, embracing, and inclusive. No matter whether they side with the donkey or the elephant, they are fundamentally the same. We all want to live in safety, earn a decent living, take care of our families, enjoy life, and make the world a better place.

It’s up to us to make sure the good outshines the bad, but it is a wee bit overwhelming to think that little old you or me can make a difference.

Yet we can. The greatest oaks have been little acorns.

So plant acorns in your own community or on your block. Creating change at the micro level is easy. From there it will grow infinitely. You can start making a difference today. As human beings, we have infinite love to share. Let’s give away as much of it as we can.

Help a neighbor. Smile at someone who looks sad. Better yet, offer to help them.

Cook a meal and invite those who need a place to eat. Thank a veteran, a police officer, a firefighter, or a nurse.

Do your legs work well? Then park further out in the parking lot and leave the closer spot for someone who might need it.

Is someone searching for a lost dog? Help them find their pet.

There is a mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or old friend who wants to hear from you. Make the call.

The old guy down the street can’t figure out how to work his phone or program his DVR. Help him out.

Why not let love make it all better?

My Thanksgiving

When my daughter, Mei, arrived on the island yesterday, we started right in on our annual tradition of baking cookies that we deliver to the local fire station and police station. It’s a special time for us that we have been sharing for years, and I hope it’s one we hold on to as she gets older.

I feel so strongly about the power of food to bring people together. Politics and beliefs might divide us on some levels, but a good meal and time spent around the table has a way of unifying us. This year we are excited to have four locals joining our family for Thanksgiving dinner. We aren’t related by blood, but we are related in our desire to bond and share our hopes, dreams, and gravy.

Mmmmm. Gravy.

When it’s all said and done, each of us wants to give love and receive it. To make love blossom, we have to share kindness, encouragement, and forgiveness.

Maybe the Beatles had it correct in the last song they ever recorded:

And, in the end

The love you take

Is equal to the love you make

I wish each of you a happy Thanksgiving from the bottom of my Liverpool heart. I pray your day is filled with gratitude, love, laughter, kindness, and wholeness.


PS: Thank you to the entire team at AMG/Parade for believing in me and allowing me to do what I love.


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© 2016 Jon Ashton