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Dr. Grauer's Column - Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving 2020  

When we were little kids, we loved making up simple games, preferred them to the games that had fast rules. I still feel this way. One of the games we made up was called "Massive Wall of Giants". We played it every Sunday before the New York Giants football game came on TV, as though it were the warm-up.

The game was pretty naïve. It depended upon the fact that I was small and nimble, and my two friends, Peter and Robert, were basically giants. Here is the way the game went: They would line up on one side, leaning down on one fist, heads up, facing me, snarling or grinning. I would reach down with both hands on the football and, the instant I snapped it, i.e., when I pulled it in to my chest, I would lunge forward in an effort to get through the “Massive Wall of Giants,” which was Peter and Robert. Their part was simple: completely maul me. At probably about 70-80 pounds, quick and slippery, I sometimes managed to break through them into the wide open. But usually I could not, and I would wind up with hundreds of pounds of massive giants on top of me, face mushed into the grass. I loved it.

Dr. Stuart Grauer (on the left) and his "giant" friend Peter Schneiderman in the late 1950's

I couldn’t wait for the next snap and maul. Looking back, it might seem strange to imagine how or why I was grateful for taking a total beating, just getting completely mangled and beaten by two giants, again and again, every weekend of football season.

Now it’s Thanksgiving season again. It’s the heart of football season, and so a lot of America will be grateful, on Thanksgiving day, for watching grown men getting pounded at the snap of a football, again and again, and then maybe a parade.

You might say it’s a tough year to be thankful: The worst and most deadly health crisis in a century and a voting crisis. The leasing of Tongass National Forrest comes as a legacy of over 500 years of assaulting Indian homelands. (Thanksgiving has always been weird for Native Americans, who didn’t want to be “Americans,” anyway, and have mixed feelings about the day.)

There is always some place in the world falling apart, and now our own country is taking a pounding. But for me, Thanksgiving is not about our nation (which did not exist at the first Thanksgiving), not about the geo-political affairs. Strife and discord will not be my Thanksgiving subtext, because this day is not about society and politics.

Grauer 11th Grade students playing a game of "Red Light, Green Light" and enjoying being outside together - November 17, 2020

To make a dichotomy: It is not about society. It is about community. At the Thanksgiving dinner table, we deserve community. Likewise, community is the whole point of The Grauer School, where we overtly seek Thanksgiving daily: we are creating a connected community where people can go through all the changes, take all the poundings, manage all the frustrations, feel all the heartache, all in a safe place and for the most part with a sense of play and gratitude.

Taking a pounding is a weird thing to be thankful for. But I loved it back then every Sunday. Later on, I spent quite a few Thanksgiving seasons working out really hard in preparation for winter surf, where I would get pounded much harder still. I’m thankful for the many Vietnam war veterans with PTSD with whom I surfed a lot all those years, the dawn patrollers. Every one of them still had their nickname from the war, and they became my water family for quite a few years, as I took a few poundings from waves and came up smiling, mostly. Every one of them had endured things that could make you go mad, things I had never endured.

There is no way I would allow giant people I hardly know to pound me over and over again if they were from “some other place.” I tend to be that same way as a boss, i.e., headmaster: the more I feel connected to you as a Grauer co-worker and the more I trust you, the more I can beat up on you, smiling—and you to me, mostly. In family, and a great school, the line between work and play blurs, and then we can give pure thanks.

Grauer Seniors Jason W. '21 and Reya L. '21 playing a quick game of "Kan Jam" Frisbee together - November 18, 2020

Robert and Peter clobbered me again and again, but somehow there was never a presence of threat, nor an absence of pure trust. Being in a high-trust, low-threat envirorment is the point of The Grauer School, and it is my wish to you, for your family, and for your Thanksgiving. If you are reading this, there is even a good chance that I feel at least a little bit a part of your family, and that I would probably even take a beating for you if I have not already, and come up smiling. I trust this is done in community. Happy Thanksgiving.


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Dr. Stuart Grauer (on the left) and his "giant" friend Peter Schneiderman in the late 1950's

Grauer 11th Grade students playing a game of "Red Light, Green Light" and enjoying being outside together - November 17, 2020

Grauer Seniors Jason W. '21 and Reya L. '21 playing a quick game of "Kan Jam" Frisbee together - November 18, 2020

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