What Matters Most this Thanksgiving

TruePoint Capital

What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? The food and drinks? Football games? Naps? Ask any veteran or former political prisoner who spent extensive time abroad what they missed most while away and almost none of them will mention food, sports, or any modern-day conveniences. Almost all of them will tell you companionship is what they missed most – the companionship of their families, friends, lovers, and others.

When a former prisoner or veteran returns home to spend their first Thanksgiving at home for the first time in a long time, the one thing that matters most and what they’re most grateful for is being surrounded by loved ones. They could care less about the food or football games, it’s the human contact that they’re most grateful for and longs for.

The importance of companionship at Thanksgiving reminds me of a story at quartz.com about an American being held in Russia on spying charges. 

Guards at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, where former US corporate security executive Paul Whelan has been held on espionage charges since 2018, rejected a turkey dinner brought to Whelan by American consular officials for Thanksgiving.

The charge d’affaires for the US Embassy in Moscow, Julie Fisher, was the person who took the food with her on a Thanksgiving Day visit to see Whelan at Lefortovo where she was turned away by prison officials When asked about the situation, Ms. Fisher didn’t mention Paul missing out on turkey as being at the forefront of her thoughts. It was something else.

“On this Thanksgiving Eve, I am most concerned about Paul Whelan’s deteriorating health and continued isolation from family,” Fisher told reporters after the visit. “It’s no coincidence that the prolonged isolation from his family is coinciding with his deteriorating health.”

It’s no wonder that solitary confinement is the worst kind of punishment a prisoner could suffer. Isolation and the lack of human contact are detrimental in so many ways – even in prison where being around a bunch of fellow convicts is better than being alone. 

Psychologists have concluded that solitary confinement can cause such lasting psychological trauma that it’s tantamount to torture. The Russians are using isolation as a psychological torture tool to extract a confession by Whelan – one he has so far successfully rebuffed.

Human beings were meant to be around other human beings. When we’re deprived of human contact and companionship, we suffer psychologically and physiologically.

That’s why love is such a strong emotion and a motivating force. 

In a letter 19-year old Carl Franzen wrote from a Navy gunship during World War II to his girlfriend at home, Franzen expressed the following:

“You have given me something, not only love, but that love has kept me going…”

In the darkest hours of the war and in the midst of despair and suffering, love was the light that kept many soldiers going. It’s the light that keeps many of us going today – in the midst of a pandemic and political upheaval.

This Thanksgiving, imagine coming home from abroad after many years and finally being with your loved ones. Would you care about what was for dinner? Would you care who was playing football on TV? Based on our basic human need for human interaction and companionship, I’m sure love would conquer the need to eat or be entertained in any circumstance.

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