Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell’s Thanksgiving Paean

Back in my preaching days, I had the challenge of preaching a thanksgiving sermon each year.  I loved the challenge – there is, always, so much to be thankful for.

I remember my favorite Thanksgiving “story.”  It was told by the great British Preacher W. E. Sangster.  He told of one woman who simply refused to be grateful for anything.  He pushed her, and prodded her, demanding that she find one thing she was grateful for.  She finally said:  “I suppose I’m grateful that my last two teeth hit each other.”

Well, there is one recent, wildly popular book, that is, in reality, one long Thanksgving paean.  It is Outliers:  The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  He demonstrates that success is the result of so many different influences; the 10,000 hours of practice (deliberate practice); culture, family.  But he ends the book with his own grateful remembrance of where his success came from.  You’ll need to read the last chapter on your own to get the full context of these thoughts.  Here’s the really terrific last paragraph of his book:

My great-great-great-grandmother was bought at Alligator Pond.  That act, in turn, gave her son, John Ford, the privilege of a skin color that spared him a life of slavery.  The culture of possibility that Daisy Ford embraced and put to use so brilliantly on behalf of her daughters was passed on to her by the peculiarities of the West Indian social structure.  And my mother’s education was the product of the riots of 1937 and the industriousness of Mr. Chance.  These were history’s gifts to my family — and if the resources of that grocer, the fruits of those riots, the possibilities of that culture, and the privileges of that skin tone had been extended to others, how many more would now live a life of fulfillment, in an beautiful house high on a hill?

“history’s gifts to my family…” — Happy Thanksgiving!


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