• Biscuits, Bears, Buddies, and Black Friday
One of my best friends got seriously injured the other day, a long way from home. I won’t go into all the details, but my buddy and his wife needed help. If you know them, you know they are the kind of folks who move Heaven and Earth to help someone else in need. When folks like that need a hand, you step up.
Everything worked out in the end, but I was grateful to see how many folks were willing to jump right in, turn schedules around, put off work or fun or other activities, just to put themselves at the ready.
That is just one of the many things that make me thankful, and not only because it’s the time of year when we are supposed to be that way.
Aside: I am writing this a few days before Thanksgiving. That’s a holiday a lot of folks seem to have forgotten about, at least the real reasons for it. Messrs. Washington and Lincoln didn’t have shopping and football on their minds when they each called for a national day to give thanks.
The Big Game, Black Friday and a day off weren’t on the minds of the Pilgrims to whom we erroneously give all the credit for inventing turkey dinners. My own ancestors at Jamestown didn’t care about getting 90 percent off some ugly boots when their thanksgiving dinner predated those Puritan Yankees by a decade. They were celebrating a year where, among other things, it finally looked like no one would have to eat a less beloved kinsman to make it through the winter. If you ask me, being able to have turkey, chicken or a ham on Thanksgiving is far superior to cannibalism.
Although that is truly a very stark reason to give thanks, we are blessed because of those who scratched and clawed our republic out of rock and mud and tyranny. Folks like the aforementioned presidents, the earliest settlers and even our grandparents knew the meaning of true thanksgiving, a concept which is slowly being eroded if not trampled like the 6 a.m. greeter at a big box store advertising hundred-dollar gaming systems.
As I breathed a sigh of relief at my friends’ message that they were home safely, I thought how thankful I am for friends like them, and others of our circle. Whether one needs a shoulder, a gallon of gas, a sympathetic ear, a good used couch or refrigerator, or a swift kick in the rump, they are always there.
I am thankful that I never have to go hungry. Vittles are very important to me, having been in some fairly tight situations decades ago, and I have never forgotten that feeling. That’s why I push so hard to help my friend Edward’s orphanage in Uganda. A lot of those kids know hunger and homelessness and hopelessness far better than I know some of my cousins. Their thankfulness, sent by video a half a world away, is heartbreaking. I am thankful I can help them a little and that others will do so, too.
I am eternally thankful that I had good parents, although they have now gone on to be with the Lord. Over the past few days I have had conversations with several folks who were not so blessed. Listening to their stories, I once again realized how much I treasure and miss my folks, and how I should have been better for them in life. They left me a legacy to preserve and a job to do, and I’m thankful for those as well.
Speaking of jobs – I have the best one in the world, as frustrating as it gets sometimes. I thank God every day that He led me to take a step and make a positive change. I’m thankful for my work family. I’m even more thankful and humbled by the folks who make the choice to support my business. Trust is earned, and I’m thankful to have earned the trust of some folks.
I am thankful for so many little things, too. The sound of a child laughing; the sight of a young woman in the sunlight when the sun hits so perfectly that any artist would weep at his inability to reproduce the image. The feel of my wife’s hand in mine. The ache of muscles at the end of a long day of actually accomplishing something. The first cries of any newborn critter.
The plush fur of a deepwinter prime coyote or bobcat, the silk of an otter pelt, the warmth of a thick beaver “plew”.
How could I not be thankful for the sound of hounds on a night so cold that it hurts to breathe? Or the philosophical conversations of owls in a deep woods as the day fades and the evening rises? Or the tentative taps, then the steady pull of a solid catfish who doesn’t realize he is destined for the frying pan? Or of doves flickering purple-pink in a September sunset?
I told y’all previously that I am rather fond of food. I suggest there is something inimically wrong with anyone who doesn’t appreciate the comfort of fresh biscuits; the steaming promise of a plate covered in perfectly fried chicken; a slice of pie – almost any pie -- still hot from the oven; a chunk of poundcake in wax paper that’s been carefully preserved on the dash of the truck all day long; “rat” cheese and white bread from a country store, along with the perfect cup of coffee in the minutes before the world wakes up and gets complicated.
I am thankful for a bear roast cooked slowly in the afternoon, to be devoured by friends who reminisce about the hunt that brought the meat home. I am thankful for the simplicity of a bacon and egg sandwich with cheese and mayo, made from cackleberries laid but a few hours before, as well as hot dogs and marshmallows burned over a fire by children excited about staying up past bedtime as above them the stars wink paternally a million miles away. I’m thankful for apples and pears straight off old trees, resilient persimmons that survive all the other beasts of the field only to fall to my greedy fingers, and the stains of a handful of blackberries eaten on the run.
How could I not be grateful that I have more books than I will ever be able to read, embarrassing and sometimes inconvenient as that is.
Then there’s my family, both blood and chosen. To be honest, I am only thankful for most of them, but since it’s the holidays we will be nice.
I’m thankful for the bray of my beloved Melanie, the whicker of sweet, silly Taliana the paint horse, the challenging bleats and snorts of my big goats and the whisper of their progeny gamboling across the yard. I’m thankful for the purr of a good cat, and the reassurance of an old dog who wants nothing more than to be loved, and the sharp needle teeth of puppies on a bare foot.
I’m thankful for my wife, who has tolerated far more than many women would even consider, for more than three decades. We’ve stared down rioters together, brought critters into the world and sent too many across the rainbow, fought a flood or two, told loved ones goodbye and new friends hello, and been hot, cold, wet, in the dark and scared together. If your spouse ain’t like mine, you might need to take a look inside yourself.
Above all, I am thankful that God looked down on the world He created, and decided that someday, for some reason known only to Him, the world would need me. On top of that, despite my failures, He loved me enough to send His son to die for my sins and rise again, defeating sin and death forever. I’m thankful for the humility that knowledge brings, and His promise of what’s to come.
I know it’s a tense time in our nation. I know a lot of people are hurting. I know nothing is as Pollyannic as we would like it to be. It’s easy to get down and it’s awfully comfortable to stay wallowing in that misery.
But if you stop for just a moment and think, there’s far more reasons to be thankful than there are reasons to mope.
I sincerely hope every one of you has a grand thanksgiving. Indeed, if you think about it, every day should be a day of true Thanksgiving.