November 25, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

We have an obligation to be thankful

This is Thanksgiving time and it seems to me we all have an obligation to be thankful, no matter what. Not only because we’re Americans and this is a uniquely American holiday, but also, as any older person will tell you, just because we wake up every morning.

Now, I know that some of us wake up to continuing pain or economic struggles or problems with spouses, kids, bosses. Sometimes we think we’d rather just sleep through all our troubles. But we know that’s not really an option.

We don’t want to be Pollyanna here either, playing the “glad” game of finding something to be grateful for in any old thing that happens. I mean, how much joy can we find in true misery?

But when we search and pray, we’re bound to find something heartening about our lives. For one thing, we thank God for creating us and launching us into the human adventure, perilous as it may be. And, regardless of all our griping, we’re thankful for living in the United States, warts and all, which was indeed part of the original reason for Thanksgiving.

It also seems to me providential that Thanksgiving comes every year about the same time that the Advent season begins. The timing is perfect. We’re grateful not only for material gifts, but also for the advent of Christ, whose coming is God’s gift of our salvation.

But, besides such serious generosity, we should be thankful as well for the “small stuff” we enjoy. Each of us has a list of such things, which may surprise us if we take the time to think about it.

Personally, I’m forever grateful for when, where and to whom I was born. In my lifetime, I’ve experienced most of the greatest events of the 20th century and beyond: the Great Depression, World War II, the turn of the millennium. The Midwest was (and is) a wonderful place in which to be raised, especially by parents and extended family who loved me, educated me and made me feel whole.

I’m thankful for meeting a man who proved throughout a long life together to be as good as I thought he was. And, for superior children, “grands,” “greats,” relatives and friends beyond number. Those are the biggies.

But I’m also glad I’ve never felt a need to go through every moment of the day clutching a bottle of water or a 32-ounce soft drink from a fast food place. Nor have I been burdened with the desire for electronic paraphernalia to continuously disturb my reflection, reading or conversation.

I’m thankful that Fred and Ginger showed up on our doorstep a few years ago, wagging their tails and smiling, “Love me! Love me!” And I give thanks for all my cats from Herman and Umbriago early on to Tigger, Blackie and Tuxedo more recently.

My gratitude for just about any kind of music is boundless, as it is for artists like Monet, Charles Peguy and Ernest Hemingway. I’m thankful for Nick and Nora Charles in the “Thin Man” movies, and for Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood, period. Just play Play Misty For Me and I’m yours.

I’m thankful for an unfailing sense of humor. But, most of all, I thank God every day for curiosity and the continuing stamina to explore whatever comes. For me, every day is a Thanksgiving holiday.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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