Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

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“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”

–Ecclesiastes 8:15

A friend once said that prayers come in two categories: Please, please, please. And thank you, thank you, thank you. Consider this part of that second group.

There are a lot of things to be thankful for. Just turn off the cable news and let the images come to curious mind. There’ll always be bumps in the road, but it seems that mankind still makes Progress.

People are worried about climate and the environment, and should be. But rivers aren’t catching fire any longer. Even though the number of people in this country keeps increasing, the amount of pollution keeps decreasing. For all the complaints about new voter laws, the number of voters keeps breaking records. For all the complaints about a gap between the haves and have-nots, a person has never, ever, ever had to work fewer hours in a week to earn his bread and butter.

There still remain many other things to be thankful for. If we’ll only imagine.

Imagine a holiday dedicated to just being thankful. How American! In what other country does the founding document mention the pursuit of happiness? Answer: none. We’re it, baby.

If your heart’s beating, and you’re free from chains, dance. As an American, your duty is to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Not to mention leisure, refreshment and amusement.

What other people would think up a whole holiday just to eat, drink and be merry? No flowers for mom, no chocolate for the lady, no staying awake until midnight to count down the seconds. (Some of us won’t stay awake until dark.)

No presents to unwrap–and before that, buy. Can it all be as simple as sitting down with family and eating? And praying? And watching football? And not necessarily in that order.

How American to take an entire Thursday to celebrate the blessings of Providence. And then get ready for the very next day, in which we give thanks for merchandising. (“The business of America is business.”–President Calvin Coolidge.)

The ancient Romans would understand. Didn’t they have a god named Janus that looked to the past and future? And wasn’t he the god of birth, and travel, and exchange?

Even in 2021, when some of us won’t be dragged to the store to fight the crowds–and our public health officials are begging us not to–commerce won’t stop. Even during a pandemic, folks will nudge each other’s elbows in the virtual crowd, getting the best deals for the next holiday. But even a pandemic can’t stop Americans from shopping. Take that, virus.

THERE hasn’t been a Thanksgiving like this one in . . . . well, forever. There hasn’t been a year like 2021, either. (Another thing to be thankful for, if you’re looking.)

The world seems to be awakening from the pandemic. We wish we could say “late” pandemic, but we’ll have to see. And keep watch. And take booster shots. We can be thankful and ever vigilant at the same time.

Today we give thanks first and last for our own peace and security and for all those who provide it, and who may be otherwise engaged today. Such as the naval officer in the blue water Navy who’s guarding shipping lanes, or the sergeant keeping guard somewhere in the Middle East. Or worse places. And sometimes in places most Americans wouldn’t care to hear about. (“I’m not afraid of the gray wolf, who stalks through our forest at dawn”–Randy Newman.)

Today we think of those families where one place at the table will always be empty. And we are reminded that there are some debts that can never be repaid.

Of all the things that have changed since this nation was founded–after another war, lest we forget–let us be thankful that some have not changed, like the dedication of still another generation of Americans doing their duty. Let us pray the rest of us will be worthy of them.

And this year let us recognize, and give thanks for, all the doctors and nurses and others who are generally and unfortunately called “health-care providers.” As much as we dislike the term, Americans have once again discovered the breed.

Much like we rediscovered cops and firefighters after 9/11, We the People have rediscovered how much nurses and doctors and hospital clerks and clinic specialists sacrifice for the rest of us. We give thanks today for those who take off their masks and gloves to choke down a turkey sandwich in a hospital today, perhaps their only recognition of the holiday.

And when they crash-land on their pillows tonight after a double shift, may they have the sleep of a good conscience. They deserve it. And much more.

Americans have grown so accustomed to our blessings that we may take Thanksgiving for granted. We shouldn’t. Let us count our blessings deliberately.

We are especially grateful for:

Those who make it a blessing for the rest of us. For those who stand on the wall, whether it be a corporal in Cuba or a police sergeant in a large American city. For the truck drivers who will still–still!–be sighted on the interstates today. For the waitress who didn’t get the day off. For the priest who will make an emergency call. For the firefighter who makes the next one.

For the peace that descends at the end of the day when the guests depart and all the rituals–from grace before dinner to plans for coming Christmas trips–have been fully observed.

For friends who make life sweet in the good times, bearable in the bad, and who, because they stick by us when we don’t deserve it, teach us true grace. Even if this year we celebrate with them via phone or Internet.

For the labor that goes into Thanksgiving and produces such delectable results. Let us give thanks for for turkey and dressing, for cranberry sauce and yams, and for pies–pumpkin and mincemeat and Karo nut and sweet potato. We’ll save room. We always save room.

Let us give thanks for leaving and for arriving. For the look of two-lane highways twisting through the Ozark hills in the early morning. And for the long ribbons of blacktop stretching forever through the flat, rich, green Delta where you can see the immensity of the sky–if only you remember to look up.

The names of people and places. For girls with two names (Bailey Lynn, Bobbie Sue). For nicknames for boys (Bubba, Bo). For the names of Arkansas towns: Smackover and Hope. Pine Bluff and Flippin and Delight. Little Rock and Big Rock Township, Natural Steps and Toad Suck and Pickles Gap Village. Don’t forget Calico Rock and Snowball and Standard Umpstead. Let us give thanks for Friendship, Amity and Romance; for Sweet Home, Welcome, and Needmore; for Evening Shade and Morning Star. Arkansas even has a Ralph, Waldo, and Emerson.

And finally, we’re thankful for you, our readers, for whom we write and report, and for the Providence that has preserved us, sustained us, and has let us all reach this day together. Be safe. And a good appetite to you!

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