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Weis: The Turkey Bowl

11/17/11 7:55AM By Russ Weis
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(Host) As Thanksgiving Day approaches, commentator, college writing teacher and environmental educator Russ Weis is reflecting upon the importance of traditions, whether old, new, borrowed, or green.

(Weis) On my college office door, I’ve posted the usual collection of amusing items relating to teaching or just to life in general.

I’ve recently put up a list of so-called “Paraprosdokians,” figures of speech in which a familiar sentence is tweaked in some surprising or humorous way. Here’s one, for instance: “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.” Here’s another: “The Evening News is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.” That second one reminds me of how inhospitable our world often is, which is why I’m glad we’re coming into the holiday season. For many, this is a time when we reconnect with family and friends - and retreat to the comfort of those who know and love us best.

Thanksgiving is a particularly meaningful holiday for me, since it’s the time of my parents’ anniversary and my dad’s birthday. So our entire family always returns home to Long Island at the end of November, something we’re all glad to do.

Besides celebrating with my family, borrowing from a familiar American ritual, I’ve organized a Thanksgiving football game for almost forty years now with many of my childhood friends. We all gather back at my old high school and try not to get hurt, while our non-playing family members mingle on the sidelines. It’s become a sacred tradition and a wonderful time for the various generations of all our families to connect in convivial fashion. And despite what another one of my Paraprosdokians has to say, which is “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” I’m happy to report that our traditional turkey time gathering is only enhanced by our tendency to do decidedly more reminiscing than football playing these days.

Over the past few years, I’ve also organized another November gathering. This one is right here in Vermont , though. It’s called the “Greening Summit,” and it’s turning into another tradition for me. Although much younger than the “Turkey Bowl,” the Summit still gives me great pleasure. The event engages Vermont high school students in a competition for grant funds to implement environmental projects at their schools. I so greatly appreciate these inspiring students, and the teachers who work with them for no extra pay, because together they are helping shape a more sustainable future.

I can’t tell which of these traditions – the old Turkey Bowl or the new Greening Summit – is more gratifying to me, and the final item on my list of Paraprosdokian favorites is no help at all: “I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.”

But I am sure of one thing: we must cherish our family, friends, young people, colleagues, and neighbors, as well as the planet we all live on. For regardless of the value of any wills we may be lucky enough to be written into, our true salvation lies in forging an ever-expanding sense of community and in keeping it, and our Earth, alive and thriving into the uncertain future.
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