Give Thanks

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Giving Thanks should be extra special this year. I think it is very important people put in that extra effort to make this year’s Thanksgiving memorable. With a national debt of twelve trillion dollars and tens of billions about to spent in Afghanistan, with the falling dollar and artificially lowered interest rates, and with the massive expansion of the federal government soon to be upon us as part of the health care bills pending, it is my humble opinion that inflation is about to take off. This year may be our last year, potentially for millions of us, to be able to invest the time and money in a Thanksgiving feast with those we love. With a war tax looming and somebody has to pay the debt, I say enjoy today. Carpe Diem. Tomorrow aint looking so good.

It was not all that long ago my family and I served meals at the Rescue Mission on Thanksgiving. We did so for the pure pleasure of it. As an ulterior motive, we knew we too would enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Servers are fed at the end of the giant feast served upon the poor. Those were dark days indeed. I did not eat that day because no matter how bad was my own situation, at least I had a place to call “home” and some food in the cupboards. The food belonged to those who needed it far more than did I. Also, I was too busy chatting up some of the wanderers and hearing tales great and small.

Before that year and ever since, Thanksgiving is the one day I have never let myself or my family forget. There is more to it than just the 15 lbs of fat I put on after the holiday. Thanksgiving is more than a golden brown turkey, peas with onions, pumpkin bread, or even a heartwarming fire ‘neath the chimney. If ever there was a holiday greater than the sum of its’ parts, it is Thanksgiving.

An unusual pall has overcome me this holiday. Mostly because I am looking at my youngest who is now at the age at which I was at when my life went askew. I was but a few months older than she is now, when I dropped out of high school and made a run for it. Here I am thirty something years later and wondering when will come the day that she too twists her life up in knots. It took me nine years before I found my footing again. When you live a life as I have, you learn that such things as having roots and belonging to a family and a community have extreme value. Thanksgiving has always been the day set aside by me to take an inventory of my life and see what if anything I have done or could still do. I worry for my kid, especially if she is anything like her father. Her achievements are noteworthy and her work ethic is to be respected. For that, I am very thankful.

The holiday comes as no easy chore. If you love Thanksgiving, then you know it is a labor of love. It takes a special touch to make a perfect bird, perfect sides, exacting decoration, the right wines, desserts, and finger foods. Even taking the time to carve radishes and drop them into ice water for decoration is part of the process. It is an art to create a table that is not just another meal but is in its own right, a picture and presentation of the message you are sending. Over the years, I can count on one finger the number of times I messed up the bird or stuffing. Once I had a beautiful perfect bird all pretty on a platter and tripped over my own feet bringing it to the table. I believe the 3 second rule was agreed upon that day by all concerned. By no means am I an artist. I can’t draw a straight line using a ruler and a compass. But there is one picture I can paint and that is a Thanksgiving meal.

Part of that picture is who sits at the table. I eat with my family 360 days a year so what is one more meal with the same faces? I love them and give many thanks they are in my life, but I have always tried to have more faces at the table that just us. After all, it takes the same work to make a 25 lb bird as it does to make a 10 lb bird. Seeing many mouths stuffed with my fine cooking is thanks enough. Having enough food to share with others is part of that for which we give thanks.

It is a routine to find folks who we define as “homeless” for the holiday. Either they are without friends or family or through chance and circumstance, end up stuck alone. One couple we know the husband works as a merchant marine and is not always around on the holidays. So we adopt them all; children, parents, and wife. Back in Law School, we picked up a few stragglers one year from among those students who couldn’t make it home for the holiday. By sheer serendipity, five out of five of our guests were named “Mike”. I share these tales because it is important that you never forget the path upon which you have travelled to be where you are. In my heart I verily believe that we should take a pause in our lives at some point and re-evaluate your perspective of history and future. If so quizzed, be sure you can quickly name off someone whose life is better because you lived. Nothing has to be monumental and you don’t have to have given millions. Even just sharing a few slices of turkey with all the fixins, if given freely and from the heart, is one damn fine way to give thanks. Over the years, I have been given the chance to give back something unique and important to people who have been there for me. Few of us ever really get that chance and it is an honor and privilege to do so.

Thanksgiving is also a day that should not end without each of us tasting a sliver of humble pie. Always remember there is someone who has it better than do you. Don’t be arrogant. Never forget everything you have and everything you know can disappear in an instant. All your security, from financial to familial, can be gone. If it has not happened to you, be thankful. On this matter, I have become quite the expert. The world around you is fragile and it can suddenly and dramatically change in an instant. Be humble on Thanksgiving and as you enjoy the bounties of your labor. Do not forget how good you have it and how it can all be gone by morning.

I attended too many funerals this year and met some very interesting people. It is so important to let go of the pains and wrongs and to overlook anomic behavior patterns. On Thanksgiving, be glad you have people around you who will miss you when you die. This holiday is a vehicle by which you can not only give back and rejoice in your bounty, but that you can see around you those who really do give a damn whether you live or die. Your friends and family may not be what you expect or desire, but they are the ones who will sit shiva and cry when you are gone.

For this reason, I say that Thanksgiving is greater than the sum of its’ parts. Nothing can warm a home and make a meal special better than keeping the meal in context of its meaning. Look around you and give thanks.

May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows.

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