‘Be Thankful For What You Got’

Probably not much need be said today; we are in the last bits of preparation to head to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburbs for Thanksgiving dinner. Very soon, we’ll transfer deviled eggs, relishes and a pumpkin pie to the car, then go pick up my mother and be off for Maple Grove.

The weather system that wreaked havoc in the western states this week generally missed us. We got maybe three inches of snow here, not enough to alter our plans. I think the snow was heavier in the Twin Cities, but unless I’m way off the mark, we should have an easy enough drive and then an easy drive home to St. Cloud when the day’s festivities are ended.

I think we tend sometimes in this culture to rush toward and then through holidays, often losing sight of the meaning of the day. That’s especially true, I think, of Thanksgiving, which has been diminished over the past twenty or so years into not much more than the beginning of the commercial Christmas season. And that’s too bad.

I have my own differences with Christmas and its artifices, with the fact that the December holiday has been turned into an excuse to make money, but that’s next month’s carping. It’s enough for me today to consider Thanksgiving, which still seems to hold to its meaning even though in many precincts it is increasingly treated as a little more than a signpost pointing the way to the next holiday.

So what is that meaning, then? We – the Texas Gal and I – have much for which to be grateful, and although I think we’re aware of the richness of our lives every day, it’s not a bad idea for us to take a few minutes now and then to underline that awareness. That’s especially true in today’s United States, a place where basic economic stability – never mind prosperity – eludes too many and has done so for too long.

Last evening, CBS News revisited its ground-breaking documentary of 1960, Harvest of Shame, the special report that examined the lives of migrant farm workers in the United States. While conditions have improved over the past half-century for the folk who follow the harvest and who help in many ways to put today’s feasts on our tables, it would be a gross exaggeration to say that those workers are prosperous. One migrant worker, asked how he and his family would celebrate today’s holiday, told CBS News’ Byron Pitts, “We’ll buy a turkey, if we can afford one.”

The Texas Gal and I live modestly, I think. We don’t lack for things we want, but neither, I think, are we extravagant. Others may see us differently; I don’t know. But when I heard that worker tell Pitts that his family would buy a turkey “if we can afford one,” I flipped rapidly through a series of emotions: chief among them were guilt, for having in our modest lives so much more than does his family; sorrow, as I know that he and his family was just one of millions of such families in the U.S. living in such straits, never mind the rest of the world; and anger, as it seems to me that we should be far beyond a system that leaves so many so far behind.

“The poor we have always with us,” said the Nazarene preacher two millennia ago. Sadly, that’s true. And while I don’t want to spoil anyone’s pecan pie today, it seems right to me if I go through the day not only being thankful for the richness of my life but also being aware that there are those who have many fewer reasons to be thankful. That should change, and maybe on another day we’ll talk about how those changes might come to be. That’s a conversation that may be difficult, and I don’t think it can be deferred in this culture too much longer.

But for now, let’s hold to the purpose of today, which is to be thankful for the things we have that endure. Material possessions come and go, as does youth and – sometimes – health. Family, friendships and love endure. And though William DeVaughn catalogued possessions far removed from my life – and from many of yours, too, I assume – when he sang in 1974, the title of his No. 4 record remains the crucial line: “Be Thankful For What You Got”

May you all have much for which to be thankful.

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3 Responses to “‘Be Thankful For What You Got’”

  1. Larry Grogan says:

    Very nicely said. Were that everyone took the time to reflect on those who don’t share in the bounty of thr day.

  2. jb says:

    Belated happy T-Day to you and the Texas Gal. We are grateful for, among other things, the Internet, and how every once in a while, friendships made there cross over into the real world.

  3. admin says:

    @jb: The gratitude for that is assuredly mutual. Depending on when we go to Texas, a spring jaunt to Madison is not out of the question.

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