Do you think we have things to be thankful for during our current times? The Pandemic is decimating our country. Political divisions have made enemies of lifelong friends, and have torn families asunder. The affects on all of us are real, and have left many of us anxiety filled, angry, misunderstood, and searching for answers. My answer for myself tonight, at this time, and in this place, is to search my heart to see what is still there. Am I capable of love, compassion, forgiveness and contrition? I have been thankful….I am still.
I’m very thankful for my family…my wife, children, grandchildren. My Mom and Dad, my brother. (And all of my other loved ones who are connected to the ones I have just named. I could name them all, but they know who they are! ) I believe my one major goal in life, starting way back when I was a teenager, was to have a family and to do the very best I could to be a good Father. I could have chosen baseball, or golf, or music, or a career of some other sort to be my main life goal…but I had a different scenario in mind. I am thankful for being able to experience so many fulfilling things through my wonderful, supportive family.
I give thanks, or course, for all of the other things most everyone else does. Life and a chance to live it. Thankful for modern medicine, it saved my life. Hopeful that this same scientific community can save us from our current critical medical crisis. Thankful for the advances in technology, which allows me to communicate with you! Thankful for so, so many little things: running water, books, refrigeration, friends, classmates, prescriptions, underwear, automobiles, you name it, and I’m probably thankful for it.
I am thankful for music and the influence it has had on my life. I haven’t been a “commercial” success like I thought I wanted to be, but I have enjoyed the love of music just for the sake of its beauty and the satisfaction it gives me to “make” it and to listen to it. Thankful for guitars too!
I am thankful for growing up in the small town of Trion, Georgia. I am so thankful that I went to school with the people who were my classmates. That small group are like brothers and sisters to me. All of us went through so many things together. Butt whooping’s, schoolyard fights, proms, dances, football season, band, term papers, tests, Ms. Roberts, Mr. West, playing basketball in the old gym, eating at the “Y”, having plays in the old theatre, fishing in the river, sneaking out of class, loving each other, and hating each other (sometimes, but not for long) Although we have diverged in many cases on our personal philosophies, I hope that we can still love each other.
Living in a small town meant being able to walk from one side of it to the other without having to take food and water to survive. It meant spending the night at your best friend’s house so much that their parents threatened to claim you on their tax returns. It meant playing “pick up” baseball every day during the summer, and “choose up” football every day during the winter. It meant watching the river flood our beloved school to the point of uselessness. It meant the Skating rink, and the one theatre in the Country were all the places you had to go for “proper” entertainment. It meant knowing which guys had the most “bad ass” cars in town. I’m thankful I got to play baseball and then golf. I had two or three of the best coaches a boy could have in Dugan Peace, Jesse Emory, and J.W. Greenwood. J.W. taught me that it’s better to be lucky than good any day. Ha! It was good, and I am thankful for all of it.
I am thankful I got to go to college for five years, and although I didn’t finish, the knowledge I received has served me well. I went to both West Georgia College and the University of Georgia. I am thankful I met my future wife there, and very thankful she decided she wanted to spend time with me. (And still is, up to 51 years now!) I am not proud that I didn’t graduate. It’s been a thorn which I and nobody else, put in my side and has stayed there for almost 46 years now. But, I am thankful it still pricks me at times when I start something and I am tempted not to finish it. It has helped me finish a lot of things I would have not have, otherwise. It helped me to encourage all of my children to finish…which they all did pretty much on their own without much help from me at all!
I’m thankful I took Typing II in High School instead of Shop. I made a lot of money typing College papers for other people, and learned about as much from that as I did from my classes. It also helped tremendously my ability to edit for incorrect grammar and spelling. Makes it easy to write these epistles on Facebook too!
I am also thankful for some of the things which I have experienced in life, for which others may think to be a little odd. I experienced the death of my first child, and though it was heart wrenching, I am thankful for her, and the fact that she lived and she was ours…mine and Paula’s. She paved the way for our other children and a deeper appreciation of them for me, than I might have otherwise had. I looked at them many times and thought of her and was extremely thankful that I had three other chances to be a Father. (For as I have previously said…I think it’s my purpose in life) Her death prepared me at a very young age for the realities of life, that bad things happen and you must overcome them lest they overcome you. I am thankful that even after 50 years I can still sit here and have tears fill my eyes when I think of her. It proves to me I’m still human.
I am thankful I had some hard, manual labor jobs at the beginning of my working career. They made me determined to look for better ways to make a living. They (along with my wife) shook me out of a rut I was in and might have stayed in, and gave me impetus to go on to better things. I am thankful that I eventually found some very good people for whom I enjoyed working. I am thankful for the people I worked with, both good and bad. The good ones confirmed my philosophy that there ARE more good people than bad in this world, and the bad ones helped build my character to withstand and persevere against things which are wrong, and to have some ethics in life. I am thankful for the very hard and nerve wracking battles I had against unethical peers, who only cared for themselves and not others…who only cared for the numbers and the money, and not the people, and that most of the time I won…though not always, and sometimes at a heavy personal and financial cost. Those battles steeled me, and cemented my philosophy for the rest of my life, that it is better to want to help people, be tolerant and acceptant of those who are different than me, to have an open mind towards ideas which were different than mine.
I am thankful that I have had enough financial resources to live life at a “good” level, though never at a “super-secure” level. (I am not anywhere near rich…and never will be) It has taught me that envy is never a good quality. It has taught me that some of the things I coveted turned out to be unnecessary, and that the wealthiest people are not always the happiest. It has taught me that I should have paid better attention in “Economics 101” at West Georgia. It has taught me to be innovative in order to survive, and to try and help others who have even less. (And there are many, many of those out there, believe me…I feel blessed for what I have in comparison to a lot of people in this country and in this world, especially in our current turmoil)
Finally, I will end up by saying I am thankful that our Creator (and I do believe in one, although not in the same way as most of you) has allowed me to enjoy all these things and allows me to continue to be here and enjoy them. My fervent wish and hope is that we all come through our current national turmoil and medical emergency with the attitude that we must…we must start communicating on a personal level again. Enough with the outlandish conspiracy theories. Enough with the unwarranted hatred of each other, which we are being baited by from politicians, pundits and false prophets! Enough. It’s time to once again be thankful for our lives and for one another and time to force the demagogues and dividers out for good. Start with an open mind, follow up with logic, and believe that it can be done. Be thankful we still have a chance….albeit a slim one, to save our world.