Turkey and all the trimmings. Football games. Family reunions. The official beginning of the Christmas season. The Macy’s parade. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, right?
Not quite. Thanksgiving, first and foremost, is about giving thanks. In the secular, post modern, science-driven world we live in, that part gets lost in all the other festivities. But all of us have much to be thankful for, and usually much more than we think.
Editor’s note: This is a reprint of the Thanksgiving post I did last year, with an additional thing I’m thankful for (#9), plus a few other modifications. It would be nice to write an entirely new post for Thanksgiving, but this one captured my sentiments to such a degree that I don’t think I could do a better job with a fresh post. If you’ve read it before, I appologize!
Do you spend time thinking about what it is you’re thankful for this time of year? If you don’t, you should. I’ll even lead off by listing what it is I’m thankful for. If you give it some thought, you’ll probably find yourself being thankful for many of the same things. Some are deeper than others, some are on the light side, but I’m thankful for them all. And if I gave it more thought, I’m sure I could easily double the list.
1) Faith. The older I get the more I come to realize that faith in God is not only a living, breathing aspect of the believer’s life, but it’s also a full blown miracle. Not nearly everyone has it, and everything in the physical and organizational worlds seem to argue against it (but not really). It’s a blessing of the highest order.
2) My marriage. 20 years and going strong! With so many marriages either blowing up or teetering on the edge, ours seems to grow no matter the outside stresses. In a world of perpetual stresses and strains, our marriage is like an island hideaway.
3) My kids. Having kids is stressful, no doubt, and I completely understand why anyone would decide not to have them. But for my wife and I, our two kids add a richness to our lives that grows as they grow.
4) Extended family. In ancient times, a large extended family was considered a kind of wealth; in today’s disconnected world it’s nothing less. I have my mom, three sisters, two sisters-in-law, seven brothers-in-law and many nieces and nephews, nearly all of whom I see on a regular basis. Then there are aunts, uncles and cousins. If that isn’t a blessing I don’t know what is. We lost my oldest nephew, Richie, this past May, and that really brings home the importance of family. Please – never take the people in your life for granted!
5) Friends. Most men are lucky to have one person who they can call a best friend — I have several and I’d trust each with my life. We have a family that we’ve been friends with for longer than we’ve been married, and they’re as close to us as any blood-related family we have. Does it get any better than this?
We tend to worry about problems we face, but one of the things I’m thankful for are the bad things that never happened to me. Here are three of the biggest:
6) I’ve never been homeless or hungry. Sounds too ordinary, right? But with all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, it’s never been so bad that I haven’t had a place to sleep or a meal to eat. I’m thankful for that in a world where millions of people will experience both this very night.
7) I’ve never been in jail or prison. Some of us might ignore this one under the “I’m too good a person” doctrine. But right now in America, more than 2 million people are incarcerated, more than 7 million are being “supervised by the criminal justice system” (in prison, on parole, or on probation), and more than 65 million people have previous criminal convictions of one sort or another. It’s far more common than most of us think, so yes, I count my blessings to not be among them.
8 ) I’ve never been called to fight in a war. We can agree or disagree that a war is just or not, but the men and women who fight on the front lines are true hero’s and heroine’s. I don’t know that I could rise to that level, and I’m thankful that I’ve never been called and put to the test. Most times, I think I’d fail it.
9 ) Despite all the mistakes, mismanagement, malevolence and plain crap, life goes on. It’s truly amazing that somehow – despite all the world’s troubles – life goes on. In my younger days, I used to think that the world would be a better place one day after we’ve made a few changes. Now I’m astounded that we continue to survive despite all the problems. I see this not as a result of the efforts of brilliant men, but as tangible evidence of the grace of God. The best proofs of the existence of God are the most obvious – which we don’t see because we’re always looking in another direction.
And the rest…
10) For good health. Somehow we never fully appreciate health until it’s gone—I prefer not to wait. Though I do have high blood pressure, I have no chronic diseases, have had no major surgeries and never even broken a bone. A major health event is a game stopper — I’ll be thankful until that event comes, and even more thankful if it doesn’t.
11) For work. Like health, we never appreciate it until it’s gone. Though we may pine for early retirement or incredible riches, work is a blessing. It’s both my contribution to- and my connection with- the world. If I have work it means I’m getting paid, and I’m thankful for both.
12) For this blog and the opportunities that have flowed from it. Five years ago I left the mortgage business, middle-aged and washed up. How do you start over when you’ve spent years working in the same business and it’s mostly not there anymore? Many people in that and other industries that have been casualties of the Great Recession are still trying to work that out. This blog has been the answer for me. It’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done, and from it I’ve built up a freelance blog writing business, writing for more than a dozen other blogs. I still work at other things, including accounting several days a month, but the blog and the freelance blog writing career it’s created are now my official career – “my thing” in life. I’m keenly aware that precious few people ever make a living doing work they love.
13) For the cyber friends who helped make my blogging career possible. Coming out of the mortgage business, I had no skills that qualified me to run an income generating blog. I could write, but I’d never written blog posts. And on the technical and marketing sides of the business, I was an absolute zero. There are no schools that teach you how to be a blogger, and it’s largely a new industry at that. But if you find the right people, you’ll learn all you need to. I’m thankful for the many people - past and present – who have made this journey possible for little, old me. I only hope that I can give back even some of what’s been freely shared with me.
14) For the world wide web. I’m especially thankful because it’s the medium in which I make my living. But I’m also thankful for a source of news, information, opinions and people that even presidents, kings and emperors didn’t have access to just 50 years ago.
15) For high school football games. Since my son joined the marching band (he’s a drummer) at his high school six years ago, we’ve been attending Friday night football games ever since. (He’s since graduated, but we continue the tradition.) I haven’t done that since I was in high school, but there’s a timeless feeling to sitting at a game played outside on a crisp fall evening. Time stands still and your cares disappear for a few hours—that’s something to be thankful for.
16) For Youtube. I’m a Youtube junkie—there I said it. I can listen to any kind of music I like, as many times as I like, and I can even do it while I’m working. It’s made to order for us in the work-at-home crowd.
17) For Starbucks. For the record, I hate their coffee, but I love the atmosphere their coffee shops provide. I’m not a bar person—too much noise, too many TVs (now that they’re all “sports bars”) and too much potential for run-ins with the law. Coffee shops are the perfect alternative if you want to get together with people and really connect. Starbucks has that down to a science.
18) For central air conditioning. I live in Georgia—any questions?
19) For sunsets. Not only are they beautiful, but they remind me that I’m only a small speck in the universe. And that just as the sun sets on this day, so it will one day set for the last time on my life. There’s no better reminder of carpe diem–seize the day.
20) For home cooked meals. Now that eating in restaurants has become the new normal, a good meal cooked at home is the true novelty. In my house, we eat most meals at home, but there’s nothing better than sharing a home cooked meal with family and friends. It never gets old.
21) For Thanksgiving. No presents to buy, no decorations to hang, no dressing up and banging on the neighbors doors looking for candy—we just sit at home, give thanks and eat. And since I’m giving thanks here, all that’s left to do is eat! Perfect.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?