Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

By Mark W. Danielson

Perhaps more than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is an emotional cornucopia. To many, it’s a family celebration where long-lost relatives bring enticing dishes to accompany the feast. To others, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by hours of football is the highlight. For those dedicated to Christmas shopping, Thanksgiving is the prequel to the following day’s sales events. This year, some stores will be opening at Midnight, Friday morning, for those so inclined. No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, this harvest festival has a special meaning.

Some believe the Spanish celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. The more prominent version dates back to 1621 where Pilgrims shared their bounty with Native Americans at the Plymouth Plantation. Thanksgiving is not unique to the United States, though. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, most likely because of their earlier winter. Regardless of its history or actual date, Thanksgiving was named so we can be grateful for what we have.

Of course, giving thanks shouldn’t be limited to a single day of the year. One of my best friends turns 94 one week from now. On D-Day, 1945, he was flying a P-47 fighter over Normandy. Today, he is still flying the twin Cessna he’s owned since 1965, takes overnight hikes in the Sierra Nevada, and plays tennis most every day. As a three-time cancer survivor, he truly gets the most out of life, and for nearly three decades, has been an inspiration to me. Whenever I ask how he’s doing, he says, “I’m still taking nutrition.” What a great stance.

Then there’s my dog, Maxx, who always wakes up with a smile. No matter what happened the day before, he’s ready to face today with tail-wagging enthusiasm. You can’t help but smile when you see him in the morning.

Of course, not everyone shares my buddy’s or my dog’s positive outlook on life. Plenty of people have physical or emotional pain that deters them from wanting to roll out of bed. One recent web comment said, “Holidays are really horrible with all the extra pressure . . .” The young woman who wrote that was referring to her mother who she believed had mental issues. Given the right circumstances, we could all feel that way, but it’s a sad attitude to have.

Some people have a difficult time attending family celebrations after a loved one has passed away – especially if their death occurred near that holiday. Holidays can be quite difficult for our soldiers who are deployed overseas, and equally hard on the homeless. If you are alone on a holiday, try reaching out to help others. By doing so, no one is alone, and new friendships can be made.

Since I’m rarely home for a holiday anymore, I give thanks every day for my health, my family, and my job. I don’t need a holiday to remind me of this.

Every day, we have the choice of making it a good or a bad day. I’d be lying if I said every day was gleeful, but I do try. The world would be a lot happier if we all gave thanks for what we have instead of complaining about what we don’t.

So this Thanksgiving, enjoy your homecomings. Talk to your friends and family members as though you truly love them, and hug them as though you may never see them again. Most of all, smile at a stranger and lend them a hand. Doing so will brighten everyone’s day. Happy Thanksgiving.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Mark. Thank you for reminding me that each day is a gift from God and that no matter what happens, I'm fortunate for what I have.

Chester Campbell said...

Great piece, Mark. I enjoyed reading about your friend. He's got me by ten years, but I don't hike in the mountains, fly a plane, or play tennis. I would enjoy the hiking, but my wife isn't up to it (she's seven years younger than me). We'll have 26 people for dinner tomorrow, including kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and the wife and parents of a grandson due back from Afghanistan next week.

Beth Terrell said...

26 people?! Gosh, Chester, you and Sarah really know how to throw a shindig.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks to all and I hope you're having a Happy Thanksgiving. Mine started off rather odd, but I'll address that next week.

My family is scattered throughout several states, but it's comforting to know all are fine.

Chester, if you see this returning Afghanistan veteran, please salute him for me as you welcome him home.