"Thanksgiving is not just a day, but a way of life."
- Our Daily Bread
Several years ago I attended a different kind of Thanksgiving program. Instead of telling what we were most thankful for, we were asked to name something we were thankful we did not have. This novel idea has become a Thanksgiving habit of mine ever since.
When it comes to things or circumstances I'm thankful I don't have, my cup "runneth over." It doesn't take long to count blessings such as family members who are not ill, impoverished or estranged from each other or me; natural calamities that have not taken place in this part of the world; and physical or emotional burdens which currently do not afflict me. The following specifics have made my list, too....
- I, with the straightest hair in town, enviously complimented a friend on her curls. "I had straight hair, too," she said, "until I had chemotherapy." Oh.
- I had a similar reaction when asking if my insurance company would pay for a dental bridge after I lost a front tooth. They also had a question for me: "Is your problem life-threatening, like cancer or the inability to eat?" Vanity wasn't covered. My straight hair and "$1,000 smile" are a lot more glamorous to me than a life-threatening illness.
- "Do you realize your roof is caving in?" warned the man placing a new roof on the house next door. Not another expense, I wailed, as the gentleman gave me the unsettling news - and his estimate of nearly $2,000 for shingles and roof repair. I know very little about roofing, but I did use my wary mindset to call another roofer for a second opinion.
"Ma'am," he said, "there's nothing wrong with your roof. The boards at the peak have just warped. I'll nail them back down for you for $100. You've probably got another five years on your roof." (He did, and I did.)
Chain reaction here: my roof didn't leak, my recently malfunctioning computer didn't need replacing, the tires on my car aren't bald, my cholesterol numbers are down, and....
Dawn Decker Joy and I had been friends since the first grade. We drifted apart after high school, however, so I never knew she, too, lived in Georgia until someone from our hometown called to tell me she had died. Though it was obviously too late to re-establish our relationship, I did go to the funeral and reconnect with other family members. That's when I learned we had something else in common: She was a writer, too. Even though I grieved for what might have been, I felt our friendship had continued, even if on a different plane.
Some time later I received a copy of the book Dawn's family compiled from her reams of notes, thoughts, and journals. On page 18 our similarities meshed again. She had a negative Thanksgiving list, too - and a positive outlook:
"Thank you, God, for noise - in peace we then enjoy silence.
Thank you, God, for ugliness - how fragile then is beauty.
Thank you, God, for tears - how pleasant then is laughter.
Thank you, God, for sadness - how delirious then our happiness.
Thank you, God, for loneliness - how precious then our family.
Thank you, God, for enemies - how gracious then are friends.
Thank you, God, for darkness - how beautiful then the morning."
Someone else who must have recognized early the importance of minimizing her negatives was the highly accomplished and, perhaps, most famous blind/deaf woman who ever lived.
"So much has been given to me," Helen Keller declared, "that I have no time to dwell on that which I've been denied." Few of us will ever achieve wealth, the presidency or more than a few brief moments of glory, but even the handicapped among us have one or all the capabilities Helen Keller lacked: sight, hearing, and the ability to communicate normally through the spoken word.
As Ms. Keller learned, the list of misfortunes we've been spared is limited only by our time and imagination to add them to our list.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we "don't haves" just may be the most fortunate people of all.
Barbara Seaborn is a local, freelance writer, and author of the book, "As Long as the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County's Past." Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org