It all boils down to the little things in life. A bag of ice, a shared beer, a dose of empathy--all go a long way towards braving the elements after a storm has passed. The tedium of waiting day after day for the power to kick back on works the most patient of nerves. But when a neighbor you hardly know walks over with a plate of grilled “something” from their freezer or offers you some much needed batteries you feel you’ve won the lottery. Actually you have. Finding a bit of kindness during miserable times is just plain wonderful and something to be thankful for.
I am one of those who tend to look for the bad, expect it, and then wear that rotten luck like some kind of badge of honor (“Oh look at me and how I suffer”). But I like to think I am fair minded enough with fate and folks to embrace those Hallmark moments. Around these parts you hear “Blessed” a whole lot.
You don’t have to believe in God and church and all that to know the meaning of the word—we have all learned the meaning of “Blessed to be alive”.
Every time some poor battered soul would stand before a BREAKING NEWS reporter, surrounded by what had been her home before a tornado reconfi gured it, I’d roll my eyes and scream, “Oh she didn’t really just get all thankful amid massive destruction”.
Thanking the Lord and going on about how lucky her family was and how it was just a house (one she’d be paying off for the rest of her life if she’d forgotten her insurance or FEMA screwed her) and they were so lucky to be alive” (yeah right). But then along came a storm to humble me. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie since then… and given thanks for every bite.
Thanksgiving can come on a hot summer day as the winds die down and the water begins to recede. Thanksgiving can happen in a doctor’s offi ce as test results are reviewed. Grateful moments, praise the Lord moments, and hot damn, pass the beer we just scored a touchdown moments come in secular and pious ways.
Another of those how can they be so damn thankful situations that would cause my eyes to gyrate were the Feed the Hungry events that pop up every year on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Certainly folks need to eat but shouldn’t they be fed every day? Watching televised coverage of our well-to-do citizens rolling up their sleeves and serving food to the down trodden just seemed like guilt washing or grandstanding to me. Again, I was wrong.
I was wrong on two counts. First, people ranging from rich to working poor feed the hungry year round and most of them do this strictly from the goodness of their hearts. Second, certain events have shown me that a celebratory meal enjoyed with others on certain holidays fuels my spirits for longer than that day’s ingestion of food. Being poor, homeless, or hung out to dry by a disaster or job loss beats the tar out of you. A meal on Thanksgiving may not change those circumstances but perhaps a small bit of one’s dignity can be nourished. It’s not just a plate of food on Thanksgiving; it’s the camaraderie of sharing a moment where troubles are allowed to be ignored (albeit briefly) and bits of laughter and talk pass like condiments along the table.
For some it’s not about the ability to afford food or find shelter—it’s about the absence of family. For most of us Thanksgiving is associated with home, security and loved ones. We’ve all been “holiday orphans” at some point. Separated from family, newly divorced, away from home with work or school, new to town, whatever—beingalone can feel pretty blue on traditional holidays.
We all need family. But you needn’t look solely to those with shared DNA. Family is what you make it. Have you ever partaken of dinner or drinks with a co-worker you previously knew or cared little about only to find that a communal moment where glasses clink or food is passed humanizes them?
They are no longer just a face but someone with feelings, personality. Maybe they will never become your best friend, but they are less a stranger now.
It can be the same with neighbors.
Sometimes a storm and its resulting power outage can act as host and hostess, introducing neighbors to each other. And in the dark, neighbors who knew one another only in passing, sit together on a porch, catch a cool breeze and perhaps find friendships.
I have found quite an extended family at my job—we fuss and fight and tattle. But ultimately they have my back and have given me a place to belong and care deeply about.
The same goes for all the neighborhood bars that double as “living rooms” as nearby neighbors gather to watch Jeopardy after work or share a Saints game. These bars are so much more than a place to buy a drink—they provide comfort and camaraderie.
Thanksgiving can be found any day at any table. We just have to know when to pull up a chair and toast to life’s blessings.