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Thanks Again

The Thanksgiving display on the preschool bulletin board featured a big construction paper turkey, the kind of construction paper turkey that hung on your bulletin board in elementary school, which is just like the kind of turkey that has hung on bulletin boards in classrooms since the Second Thanksgiving.

Around this turkey were individual bits of paper and on each one was a child’s name and the thing that child was thankful for.

You can imagine it. There were the usual “I’m thankful for food.” “I’m thankful for my family.” “I’m thankful for my baby sister.” But then I noticed some interesting variety. “Arnie” was thankful for his playhouse. Another child, let’s call her “Rita” was thankful for her hot tub. And then, on the other side of the turkey there was another child—let’s call him “Buster”—and he, too, was thankful for his hot tub.

Hey, if I had a hot tub, I’d be thankful, too.

Which brings me to the point of the column. You really want to be comprehensively and thoughtfully thankful on Thanksgiving, don’t you?

I mean, this is the one day all year where you are really supposed to, if not count your blessings, at least recognize and give thanks for as many of them as you can think of.

So to help you think outside the cornucopia, the way “Arnie” and “Rita” and “Buster” did, I suggest divvying up your gratitude into four different categories. You can make your own Thanksgiving Flow Chart if that will help expedite the process. All you need is four sheets of construction paper and colored markers. Pilgrim and turkey stickers are nice if you have them, but gravy stains add an authentic touch.

On the first page, write Category 1 is: The Usual Suspects.

Yes, you’re thankful for your family and friends and food and health and laughter and time to be with ones you love. You’re thankful to have a job, to have a home, to have a car that at least runs. You’re thankful for your education, your wits, your body, your emotions, your senses. You’re thankful for sunsets and sunrises and . . .

Yes, these are all the same-old, same-old things you’re thankful for every year and maybe it’s starting to seem a little humdrum to be thankful for them. But think what a bad year it would be if you didn’t have these to be thankful for.

So go ahead, list the names of loved ones, favorite dishes, favorite places. Don’t forget to be thankful for your auto mechanic if you have a good one, the waiter at the diner who remembers how you like your coffee. Be thankful for the school you got your degree from, even if it’s just the School of Hard Knocks. Say a little prayer of thanksgiving for your brain.

Category Two: Hot Tubs and Other Marks of First-World Affluence

This is a trickier category. Is it OK to be thankful for things that others don’t have because of an economic and political vista that favors the wealthier and neglects the needs of the poor? On the other hand, is it ever OK not to be thankful? Because it is really callous to be so accustomed to our relative wealth and our resources that we no longer recognize them as things to be grateful for.

So “Rita” and “Buster” were dead-on right to say they were thankful for their hot tubs. Maybe some of the things you’re thankful for make you realize that we also have the choice to live more generously. It might be a wake-up call if you realize you’re spending more on your amazing facial moisturizer than you are on local charities.

So be bold. Be thankful for your leather upholstered car seats and your very good coffee and your cashmere sweaters and your stock portfolio. But maybe you’ll decide being thankful really isn’t enough. Maybe you’ll be inspired to want to contribute to others’ lives so that they have more to be thankful for, too.

Category Three: Politics and Thanksgiving

OK, maybe some of us are actually relieved to discover that President Bush’s credibility rating is now lower than President Clinton’s was at the height of Monicagate and that, as a second-term president, the odds of his rebounding from such a poor job rating aren’t great.

Category Four: Things You Wish You Could be Thankful For, But Cannot Be.

Tough category. Unfortunately, this is a really easy category to fill: We wish we could be thankful for the safe return or at least an exit strategy for our troops in Iraq. But we can’t be. We wish we could be thankful that at least some of the money spent on warfare had been spent on the health care needs, and education, of children.

That’s a pretty comprehensive Thanksgiving list. And not all bright spots, either. But Thanksgiving is also about being realistic.

—Jo Page

jopage@graceniska.org

 


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