The reason I’m not going home for Thanksgiving is because traffic fatalities rise 6% after a highly publicized suicide.
Go ahead. Read that sentence again to see if my logic makes sense.
Anyone? Anyone? Oh, you there! You’ve read The Tipping Point, haven’t you? In that book, author Malcolm Gladwell tells about a sociologist who studied traffic reports in a town for the weeks after a front-page suicide. And every single time, when someone killed himself, more people died in single-victim car wrecks.
There seemed to be only two explanations: either people’s driving skills deteriorated after reading about a suicide…or the suicide somehow gave people permission to end their own lives by crashing their cars.
The sociologist concluded it was the second explanation, saying “I don’t know whether any of us knows how much of our decision-making is conscious and how much is unconscious.”
There you go. That’s why I’m not going home for Thanksgiving.
Still confused? Well, how about I add this to clear things up: I live in Minnesota, and the day before Thanksgiving, I’ll be driving back to my hometown to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and twin sister.
So, you could almost say, I am going home for Thanksgiving. Except I’m not.
Because what I learned from the suicide/traffic fatality example was that the way we think about things matters. We give ourselves permission to explore certain options. We let ideas into our minds. We talk about people or events or ourselves in a particular way. And our actions follow our mind.
I try to tell people I’m “visiting my family” for Thanksgiving instead of “going home” because I want to train myself to think about where I am—the stage of life I’m in—in a certain way. I don’t want to give myself permission to consider my life right now an in-between stage. I don’t want to be rootless, always thinking of some other place as home, wandering Oz and wishing I was back in Kansas. I don’t want to miss out on loving people here because I miss the people I love there.
This is home. I’m not going there for Thanksgiving. I’m actually leaving home for the holiday.
Granted, I’m leaving it to spend time with people who I love more than any other people in the entire world, who will always make me feel loved and safe and accepted. That is incredibly significant, and I really can’t tell you how excited I am about that.
All of this may sound like a silly word game to you. But, guys, words matter. That’s why councils of religious leaders spent days agonizing over how to frame their description of the Trinity in the official creeds of the church. That’s why you take so long to decide what write in sympathy cards. That’s why they give the president speechwriters instead of having him ad lib everything.
What we say, out loud or in our minds, influences what we think and believe. And that influences what we do. It matters.
In case you’re wondering, it is 100% fine to ask me if I’m going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or what have you. I will smile and say, “Yes. And I’m super excited!” I understand what people mean when they ask that, and that is completely okay. Honest.
But I will continue to refer to this place as home because I have fought hard for that belief over this past year, and I am not giving it up now.
I have to say these things, because the more I remind myself of them, the more I believe them.
My life matters now, even as a single twenty-something who isn’t sure where she’ll be in three years. God put me here for a reason. This is home.