It’s that time of year, when America gives thanks. It’s my favorite holiday of the year, and for good reason.
Not only is it good for my soul to count my many blessings, it is also time for my annual trip to home and hearth. Every year, my family—big brood that we are, since we definitely helped overpopulate the earth—gathers at a lodge in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains for a tumultuous celebration. We take full advantage of our mountaintop retreat to hike, play, laugh, eat and burp our way through the days and nights of an extended reunion.
The world would be a better place if all were as blessed as I feel when we gather each year in our Thanksgiving circle and express what’s good about our worlds. And, indeed, we all have plenty to be thankful for.
First and foremost, there’s family, and friends who become family. Sure, bloodlines are important, but not as important as the connections we make in our journey through life. I’m thankful for those who have nurtured me, loved me, taught and guided me, and who have forgiven me my trespasses. Moreover, I’m thankful for those times when I returned the favor.
Perhaps “giving back” is the greatest blessing of them all. A special friend recently reminded me of a truth I learned long ago, that the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. I’m thankful for those who have allowed me to help them, and for whatever role I’ve played in making this world a better place.
I’m growing older by the day, and yet I still have my health to be thankful for. Soon I’ll be setting out on a whole new adventure—owning my own newspaper—and I couldn’t do it if my health were failing. And while some have questioned my mental health for taking on such a venture, I still feel fortunate to have the opportunity, and the late-in-life energy, to do it. I’m thankful that I get to continue as an inky wretch.
Getting old can suck, I admit that, but as the old adage goes, it’s better than the alternative. And having a life to look back on can be fun, if you know what to look back on. I’m thankful for what my father used to say, that humans tend to remember the good things more than the bad. Thanks for the good times.
For younger people, however, it’s better to look ahead. I see the generations coming up behind mine and hope their future will be better than my generation’s past. That might be a tall order, for there are so many troubling elements to life in the here and now, but still I believe. Nostalgia can distort our worldview, as can today’s divisions, but the fact remains that for a lot of previously oppressed and repressed people, the future shows promise. I’m thankful that our world is big enough for everybody.
Which reminds me of a line toward the end of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” when Aaron Burr sings: “I was too young and blind to see … the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece—which tells the story of the “ten dollar founding father” with a brilliant blend of lyrics mixed into hip-hop, R&B and other modern musical genres—essentially hands this nation’s story to a diverse new generation of Americans. Longstanding divisions aside, our nation is far more inclusive than we used to be, and I am deeply thankful for that.
I can see a growing acceptance of diversity in places like Arkansas, where I grew up, as well as in New Mexico, the place I now call home. All over this nation there are hopes and dreams and reasons to believe.
I’ll never stop being thankful for the bounty and the blessings we enjoy in America, and the opportunity each succeeding generation has to make it a more perfect union.
This year, when my family gathers in a circle to bless our Thanksgiving feast, I’ll be counting my own blessings. Family and friends. Love. Laughter. Life. Heart and soul, mind and spirit.
These are the things that make life worth living. Thank God we’ve still got ‘em all.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and writes this column for newspapers around the state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.