Inspired by “Allegiance to Gratitude” in Braiding Sweetgrass
Written by Reegan Brockhage
Sara’s life is uprooted when her family moves to a small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but woods and fields. She meets a new friend Meztli at school who introduces her to The Thanksgiving Address, and she begins to appreciate the Earth that she lives on and the nature that surrounds her.
Keywords: allegiance, gratitude, Thanksgiving, Mother Nature
What if, instead of reading the Pledge of Allegiance everyday at the beginning of school, we read the Thanksgiving Address? What if we pledged allegiance to gratitude instead of to our flag? What if, when we said “Thank you,” we actually meant it and explained what for? How different would our world look? Well, this is the story of Sara and how she came to learn to show her gratitude for the Earth she lives on and everything around her.
It was the first day of fifth grade at Cody Elementary School for Sara. She was new at school, and she was a little nervous. She walked in the classroom right when the bell rang. All of the students stood up and began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance which they knew like the back of their hands:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Sara couldn’t help but wonder why she always had to recite these words, but she obediently did it every single time. She couldn’t focus at all that day at school. All she could think about was how mad she was at her parents for moving her clear across the country to a small town with nothing but fields and woods. She was used to the big city life and shopping with her grandma every weekend, so it was a big change as you can imagine. The school day was a little rough, so she came barging through the door when she got home.
“I can’t believe you moved me to this awful town!” screamed Sara.
“I’m sorry, honey, but your dad has such a wonderful work opportunity here. Go out and explore the beautiful nature. I’m sure you’ll learn to love it,” exclaimed her mom.
“Whatever,” answered Sara.
Sara hiked on her tall rain boots and went out to her new, wooded backyard. The sun was low in the sky and the moon was starting to peek through the still bright blue sky. Her backyard was covered with trees and flowers, and there was even a stream running through the woods. She thought to herself, “My mom is right. This backyard actually is kind of beautiful,” but she could never actually admit that to her mom, of course. She continued exploring and saw all sorts of animals–insects, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, birds– she even saw fish swimming in the stream! The long trek was making her thirsty and tired, so she scooped up some water from the stream to drink and then walked over to a low-hanging branch from a big Maple tree to take a rest.
She dozed off for a few minutes and before she knew it, the stars were starting to shine, and the moon lit her path back to the house. Along the way, she discovered a mulberry bush and decided to pick a few berries off for a snack. Mmmm, are they tasty! She made it back to the house and jumped into bed. It wasn’t so bad of an end to her terrible day.
The next day at school, Sara noticed another new girl named Meztli (Mays-lee). She decided if she was going to be forced to stay in this town, she might as well make a few friends, so she worked up the courage to strike up a conversation with Meztli during their morning recess. It turns out that they have a lot in common and Meztli is actually super cool. She even invites Sara to have a sleepover Friday night. So, maybe this town won’t be so bad.
Friday arrives, and the school day couldn’t go any slower. Sara and Meztli can’t stop talking about how excited they are for their sleepover, so when the bell rings at the end of the day, they run out to Meztli’s mom’s car. When they get home, they spend all afternoon playing outside until the moon shines in the sky. Meztli whispers a few words of thanks to the moon for giving them light to play. Sara thought it was a little weird but didn’t think much else of it.
The next morning, Meztli explains to Sara, “So, every morning, my family says The Thanksgiving Address before we eat breakfast. It’s a way to give thanks to Mother Nature and all of the living things around us that make our Earth a better place. You can participate with us, or you can just wait until we are done, if you want.”
Sara was a little confused, but says, “That sounds interesting. I’d love to hear!” Meztli and her family recite The Thanksgiving Address, and Sara can’t help but think back to her walk through the woods in her backyard a few nights ago. While exploring, she saw all of these elements of the ecosystem that Meztli and her family were showing gratitude towards in their address–Fish life, Plant life, Berries, Trees, Animal Life, The Sun, The Moon, The Stars, and so much more. Sara now saw all of these things in a new light. Before, they just co-existed with Sara, but now she understood all the good that they do and realized how much gratitude they deserve.
Meztli and her family finished with, “Now our minds are one,” and Sara felt at peace with the Earth and all of the life that surrounds her.