Thanksgiving might be a little different this year. Yes, there will still be turkey, madness on Black Friday and Ohio State versus Michigan on Saturday. However, many of us are facing difficult and uncomfortable political discussions with family. Even if the subject is avoided on Thursday, our feelings will still be present and conflict more likely. Several of my friends have since changed their travel plans, and, as we saw in a recent New York Times article, they’re not alone.

How can we make Thanksgiving this year just a little bit better? Perhaps to break the ice, or instead of avoiding politics entirely, consider discussing the value behind Thanksgiving: gratitude.

Many of us already, sort of, do this. In my family, we each say one or two things we’re thankful for before eating. For me, this has often meant acknowledging positive experiences or the chance to see my brother who lives across the country. Being mindful and thankful in this way isn’t bad. Yet being thankful for things or successes, as opposed to acknowledging our gifts and responsibilities, leaves the most important ideas about our privilege unsaid.

By doing so, we fail to see our own privileges accurately and to acknowledge our responsibilities. All of us at the University of Michigan have reasons to be thankful, even if in the weeks following the election it may not feel this way. We’re all gifted, be it with numbers, words, sound or athletics. Though hard work may have contributed to our successes, the support of those around us has allowed us to develop our gifts (which we don’t morally deserve) into talents and abilities. Honesty is acknowledging the role of our gifts and of others, not our work ethic, in our success. With these privileges comes a responsibility — the etymology of the word is response to one’s actions and abilities — to others.

David Brooks’ most recent book, “The Road to Character,” put this practice — of acknowledging success but not our gifts and responsibilities — into broader context. Our culture has shifted dramatically since the 1940s, from one in which individuals practiced self-effacement and restraint to one of self-promotion and expression. We’re told from a young age and at each graduation ceremony in our lives that we alone can do anything. We’re encouraged to focus on ourselves and not others. In our meritocratic society, borrowing Brooks’ words, the “Big Me” dominates.

The election demonstrated the prevalence of this outlook. Voters from both parties expressed anxieties about their jobs and concerns for their own families and religious values. This isn’t a bad thing; issue voting helps to set the political agenda and the priorities of government agencies. But so much of politics has become about me: my problems, my anxieties and my country. Trump arguably is the Biggest Me: He repeatedly touts his fame, business and $3.3 billion name. With Brooks’s thesis in mind, Trump’s wide support becomes a bit easier to understand.

We’ve given less thought to our neighbors, communities and the needs of others, in both our personal and political lives. We craft our own success stories — personally, for example, how I got into graduate school here — yet we give little attention to our gifts, graces and responsibilities. Few, including me, acknowledge that success often comes at the expense of our peers. Our culture’s shift toward the Big Me makes having conversations about politics, which many of us feel are so desperately needed, even more difficult.

It doesn’t have to be this way, as Brooks writes. We can start to change this Thanksgiving. Instead of fighting over candidates, ask your family about the sacrifices they’ve made for one another. Listen to their thoughts on privilege. Discuss what responsibilities we have to others. Craft your stories from the semester differently, by acknowledging your gifts and privileges as opposed to your successes and hard work.

Consider another example: Thirty-three years ago this weekend, Bo Schembechler told his players to recognize the effects of their actions on the team in everything that they did on campus. Each player had a responsibility derived from his gifts and support from the University to his line mates, coaches and the team. Let’s think differently and more deeply about gratitude to get through this week. We might even have another thing to be thankful for on Saturday afternoon.

Anthony Cozart is a graduate student in the Ford School of Public Policy.

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