Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.

From “When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Rios


Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

In the frenzy of the Thanksgiving holiday — preparing the turkey, making the stuffing, trying to stuff 15 people around a table meant for 10, watching football, and watching the clock to see if a nap can be squeezed in, we can easily forget the origin of the holiday. Two entirely different communities of people, coming together in peace, sharing what they had and giving thanks.

Ask any elementary school student (hopefully a future Valpo grad!) and they will tell you that in the United States we trace Thanksgiving back to 1621, when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared a three-day feast to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first harvest — a harvest made possible because the Wampanoag shared their knowledge of agriculture in a world new to the Pilgrims.

Alberto Rios, the first poet laureate of Arizona, so eloquently describes how we are made better for our differences when the act of giving — even when we seemingly have little to give — opens our hearts.

I give thanks to be part of an extraordinary community that intentionally invites people of different backgrounds, belief systems, and cultures to live together and join in the common pursuit of truth. The bounty we share is care and compassion, deeper respect and relationships, a celebration of differences, and stronger bonds forged of discovered commonalities. In this community, we prepare students to become leaders who serve. As individuals — and as a community — we come into our own. Alberto Rios writes: “… together, we made something greater from the difference.”

When you’re asked to pass the sweet potatoes, recall how sweet it is be blessed by this inclusive community that strives to live as Christ calls us to do. The feast will be richer and will nourish well after the dishes are put away, the guests leave and the lights go out. Please join me — regardless of your faith tradition — in offering prayers of thanks and gratitude for the blessings that we have received this year. And please join me in living out our gratitude for becoming better for our differences.


Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.