For What Shall I Give Thanks?

For What Shall I Give Thanks?

The forecast the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is all about change. Flurries for my family in Ohio, where fall has been mild. Strong winds and heavy precipitation (rain or snow, depending) for my students making their way home to the mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast. The rest of the nation looks relatively clear and pretty cold (at least for November).

Here, in Tampa, the wind is blowing. The temperature will fall throughout the afternoon and evening, giving us our first lows below 40 since late last winter. I might even end up turning on the electric fireplace, a concession to my Midwestern childhood, before the evening is through.

It’s good to be at home.

And it’s good, if only briefly, to put down the newspaper, turn away from the updates and breaking news alerts, and consider what I am thankful for.

I am thankful for the late nights I’ve spent waiting for a teen or adult child to come home.

I am thankful for waking in the middle of the night countless times because I was worried about one or another of my kids, and (because this is how I deal with such times) being prompted to pray for them . . . and then for named and unknown others who also were struggling.

I am thankful, too, for the frustration I often feel as I look at the state of our state, our nation, and our world.

I am thankful for my losses: jobs, elections and most especially children. Perhaps, most of all, I’m thankful for these.

This may seem like an odd list for Thanksgiving. But from the lofty height of 56 years, and the reflective moment of relative quiet on a day when my pace can be slower, they are the things that come to mind. Of course, I am thankful, deeply thankful, that I never waited up at night only to face a dawn in which I was uncertain about what had happened to my child. That so many of the things I have worried and prayed about have not come to pass. That dedicated people, elected, appointed and volunteer, are wrestling with our problems in every region of our country and every corner of our world. And that I have a job, and opportunities for service, and a wonderful wife, as well as wonderful children and grandchildren, still with me.

But my lofty perch compels me to see that the man I am today (especially the best parts of me) is a product of what I have had to suffer. My losses and failures did not just redirect my steps to new opportunities. They have transformed my thoughts, my cherished opinions, my fundamental assumptions, into new ways of understanding my fellow human creatures. As a result, I am much more worth knowing, much more valuable to my family and friends and to those others with whom I have contact personally and professionally.

I’m not who I want to be today. There are still many “under construction” signs posted on my interior thoroughfares.

But I’m closer today to that someone I once thought (quite arrogantly, and quite incorrectly) I was.

I don’t know that I’ll get there this side of heaven. But I know I have been impelled along the path by the losses I’ve suffered, the fears I have faced, and the frustration with which I’ve had to come to terms. So this Thanksgiving, I’m giving thanks for a highly varied list of things that are a part of my life and my biography. For what I’ve retained, and for what I’ve lost. For what I’ve feared and for the times I have not needed to fear. For my failures, as well as for my successes.

I guess you could say, in sum, that I am truly thankful for life itself.

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