Why are we thankful only on Thanksgiving?
It’s Thanksgiving Day and once again we are going to the in-laws for dinner. It happens every year. My wife comes from family of 12 kids, and most live right around here. All 7 girls (daughters and daughter in laws) crowd into a kitchen made for four and make more food than an regiment could eat. The men folks watch or play football depending on their age. Then the dinner bell sounds and we all 24 squish around a table for 12. Usually we start dinner with something like “I am thankful for…” and we go around the table. I have always stuck with “a good mom and dad.” It worked when I was five and no one gives me dirty looks now. It is good to be thankful on Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping to impart to my girls is that this isn’t a once a year event or at best a whole week of thankfulness leading up to thanksgiving. This is a lifestyle.
When I look back at my life, (don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the particulars) I see nothing but a long string of events that led me (you can call it karma, God’s grace, or pure luck) by the hand through a maze of pitfalls and chasms that should have swallowed me whole but didn’t. Personally, I call it God’s mercy. I think that we all can look back at events in our lives, and see in retrospect how close to danger we were without even knowing it at the time. Maybe it was a parent, uncle, or friend that pulled me from the metaphorical edge of the cliff. I know it wasn’t my sterling good worth. I am thankful that I am alive and have all my fingers and toes accounted for.
Then there is this country I live in. I don’t know why I was born in the good old USA but I am thankful. I spent four years, 9 months, and 7 days in the Navy. (but who was counting?) Two and a half of those years were spent in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, and onboard two aircraft carriers. Some of the most memorable experiences of those times were seeing the children grubbing around for existence and begging for clothes and food. I, meanwhile, complained that we had Salisbury steak two days in a row at the chow hall or that laundry didn’t come back on time. Yes, I was selfish then too. I remember being in middle of the Saudi Arabian desert, where sand storms would cover the base, and not liking it because it was hard to walk from our barracks to work and back. Meanwhile, I didn’t even give a thought to the people who didn’t have a home to keep the sand out. That being said, I am thankful that I live in a free country.
Something I have enjoyed is a rose. One reason for this is that in the Saudi Arabian desert there was a little chapel off to the side of the base. In front of this chapel were a little fountain and a rose garden. To this day, I can still see and smell those roses. I spent many evenings reading there. It was peaceful, a refuge in the middle of all my problems. I wish my problems now were as simple as those problems I had back then when I was 19! Howbeit, I am thankful for roses.
It usually takes a cataclysmic event – or a holiday – for us to stop and really look at the things right in front of our noses: the spouse, nature, sunset, child, or even a good glass of wine. However, these amazing miracles are right in front of us every day. The facts that I was born into a family who loved me, that I never lacked for food or clothing, that I still don’t lack, are often taken for granted, but are not deserved. Something as beautiful as a lily takes on new meaning when you realize that against the odds it sprouted and blossomed and is there for me to enjoy. That juicy tomato was only a tiny seed in the ground. It sprouted, became a bush and gave of its plenty to undeserving me. All of these gifts are laying around us if we would only stop and look, and that is what I want to pass on to my girls, the gift of seeing gifts around us. The gift of being able to stop and actually enjoy food, drink, music, nature, and even, dare I say it, the people we’re with. I have not attained to everything that I have written here, but it is a quest and hopefully each day will bring me closer to that end.
I’ve worked up quite an appetite thinking and writing this, so I will now enjoy a turkey, some stuffing, mashed potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, gravy, ham and gravy – then go back for seconds. After which I’ll have pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate cake and if there is room some bread pudding. To finish it off I’ll open a bottle of ’05 Domane Serene Jerusalem Hill and toast to being thankful for the gifts all around us.