"Thanksgiving is not just a day but a way of life."
- Our Daily Bread
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's autobiographical novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, has been an inspiration to me ever since I read the story more than 30 years ago.
Rarely do I succumb to complaints about the circumstances of my life without remembering the politically imprisoned Russian who manicured the coverlet on his narrow cot, and imagined he lived in a mansion instead of a dingy cell; transformed his tasteless bread and broth into a daily feast; and turned his monotonous cleaning and brick-laying chores into works of art.
This Thanksgiving, instead of listing the big things - home, family, adequate income and health - for which I can be grateful with my brain turned off, I'm going to try climbing inside Solzhenitsyn's head and thanking God for the daily minutia, without which my life would be infinitely more trying.
I undertake this exercise cautiously, realizing only too well that my circumstances bear little similarity to Solzhenitsyn's Siberian cell.
The alarm clock rings and I wake instantly because I can hear. I slide out of bed, raise the shades, and walk downstairs because I can see where I'm going and my legs will take me there.
I turn on the lights and the water because natural resources are still in ample supply in this country, and my income is sufficient to pay for connecting them to my home.
I open the refrigerator for juice and milk, and the cupboard for cereal and tea, because I also can pay for food and supplies so abundantly available in well-stocked stores all over town.
I dress for the day because I have something to do or someplace to go, and a closet full of appropriate clothing to wear. The phone rings, connecting me to family, fellow worker or friend and the outside world. I take a walk, breathe unpolluted air, and use my sight, strength and hearing for pleasure as well as need.
I catch up on news someone else compiled and delivered while I slept, because someone taught me how to read and a free press allows the information to reach my door.
My car responds to the turn of a key, and takes me where I choose to go on roadways which others built and regulated for my safety and pleasure. Errands complete, I return to the address I call my own. Mail, messages, another meal or time to rest precede more choices and activities which, unlike Solzhenitsyn, I don't have to fantasize into meaning. As day ends and fatigue intrudes, I pull the shades, reset the clock, and return to bed to await another day.
My gratitude increases when I consider the difference between my day and that of my parents. When they were my age and I was their child, we didn't live in a climate-controlled brick house with adequate room, water and electric power on demand.
I was in high school before we had a car. Both my parents had false teeth before they were 40, and a succession of poorly-treated illnesses claimed my father's life and my mother's mobility long before their anticipated threescore years and 10.
Their days, weeks and years, though not as severe as the Russian's, were far more complicated than mine have ever been. Still, I received my tendency toward thankfulness from them. Thanksgiving meals taken at their battered table and served on mismatched china were always sumptuous feast.
So, this Thanksgiving, rather than thinking about unpredictable tomorrows, or dwelling on an unchangeable past, I join the optimist from the days of the Cold War; the Old Testament prophet, Elisha, who announced, "This is a day of good tidings" (II Kings 7:9); and the Psalmist who wrote, "This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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