It’s been an eventful year. I’m in a new house. I have a new employer and am working several new side projects which I enjoy. I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life. Times are good. In looking at the past year, I’ve also taken a look back to last year’s Thanksgiving column. It still represents how I feel about this holiday, and every other day leading up to it. As such, I’m sticking with it again for this year for today’s Courier Herald Column:
This week is the time where we all celebrate Thanksgiving by sharing what we’re thankful for. There are usual obligatory references to relative good health, having more than others who may be less fortunate, or for the friends and family we have. If there is any route exercise to express such thanks, it is usually timed to keep the meal of abundance out of my stomach for an extra 10 or 15 minutes.
One family tradition I once had involved every extended family member having to state something we were thankful for, supplemented with some Bible reading and maybe a song or two. It sometimes made it difficult to be thankful when all I really wanted was the food on the other side of one more hymn.
The truth is, when taking for granted most that we have, being thankful isn’t a very active exercise. It’s something we all know the right answers for, but requires no genuine feeling of thankfulness to participate. We know the right words, we go through the motions, and eventually we get to eat and watch football. It’s a tried and true system.
As I went through my twenties and early thirties, I had more yet was thankful for less. Enough was never sufficient, yet the clear goals I once had for myself were replaced with “more”. It was not a fulfilling existence. Luckily, some bad business decisions combined with a run of bad luck took care of all that. I lost everything I owned and even more that wasn’t mine.
In a course of less than two years, I went from having multiple second homes and several nice cars to having to beg for a spare room and scrambling to find a drivable vehicle. To say the least, it was a humbling experience. I lost not only the financial assets but the confidence that had fueled the ability to gain much of them. Truthfully, the confidence had been gone long before the fall, replaced by a toxic arrogance that blinded me from relevant realities.
In discussing with a new found friend a couple of years ago, I made the remark that one of the benefits of losing everything you own is realizing everything you have. And I still had plenty. Though some friends were lost, I realized that many of my friendships were quite deeper than I had realized. I lived for the first year in two basements loaned to me unconditionally by two different friends and their families whom I had met in my first job out of college. They fed me quite a bit too.
Though family relationships were strained, they continued to love me because God told them once that they had to. A friend who had once been in a church youth group that I had briefly led got me to attend his church, and it’s been my church home for over 5 years now. Co-workers from a former business relationship made a place for me at a company where I have worked for over 3 years since. And along the way, I accidentally discovered that writing about Politics was something I enjoyed, and have managed to move that avocation from writing anonymously on a website to becoming its editor and a daily columnist.
In the process, there is now a lot to be thankful for. But a lot like Dorothy, I didn’t have to have the trip to Oz to get it. I’ve had it all along.
The stuff, well, it’s coming back. I’ll hopefully be closing on a house next month, though it will be quite a bit more modest than my last one. I have a dependable car, though it has over 100K on the odometer and is a bit smaller than I care for. My job frustrates me on a regular basis, but one in ten Georgians would love to have any job right now. These are the things that I am supposed to be thankful for. And truly, after where I was just a few years ago, I am.
But in addition, I have the love and friendship of those who have been at my side when I needed them. I have the additional friends that I’ve met though the various activities associated with my writing and related activities. I have personal goals again, set not so much for monetary achievement, but for what I want to accomplish with the time I have not yet squandered. Life is busy, but above all, life is good.
One of my biggest regrets out of all of this isn’t what I’ve lost, but that I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it. I can only pray that I do not allow that to happen again. Part of the process is to remind myself to find the true thankfulness in everyday activities and occurrences. There are so many others who would kill to have the problems I have. I remain an unworthy but very lucky guy.
With that, I say thank you to you. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to write for you, and thankful that you spend a few minutes each weekday reading. I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope that in your thankfulness you too find the happiness in all that you possess.