No Matter What, Be Thankful

On Friday, the 13th day of November 2020,  someone famously sarcastically exclaimed, “What could possibly go wrong?”  Even though it elicited laughter, the truth is, most of us recognized we might want to avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, breaking any mirrors, or walking under ladders. 

Today, we are fatigued from worry, sadness, and in many cases, loneliness. Many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic and others, have lost jobs and income.  We have suffered the slings and arrows of a bitter, contentious election that disrupted many relationships and hardened our hearts. 

Now, it seems as if the COVID Grinch is trying to sabotage our traditional joyous holiday season.  What else could possibly go wrong?  None of us should be surprised if there is a turkey recall or a limit on yams or cranberry sauce the week before our 2020 Thanksgiving!

So, how are we suppose to elicit gratitude around our Thanksgiving tables this year?   How do we find happiness amid such sorrow?  Where do we toss our bitterness, division, and heartache?

There is an answer

The answer is found in one word: God.  We can all say we believe in a higher power, attend religious services, and tap our prayer emojis on our phones, but there are times we are each called to “use” our faith.

When we face daunting hardships and seemingly hopeless tomorrows, we can either succumb to defeat or turn to our faith.   The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances.  My take on that is we are to find gratitude amid a pandemic, loss, uncertainty, and insecurity.    

A good friend of mine was shocked by the sudden news of a possible cancer diagnosis.  As I held her while tears ran down our cheeks, I found myself extremely thankful that she is a part of my life. God gave us many years of love and laughter, and I pray there will be many more.  However, I am thankful that she is blessed with the personality and strength to forge forward and fight.  She will “use” her faith to travel the rocky road she is to navigate. 

There is a moment of gratitude in every situation, even as tears fall, and life is upended.  Perhaps, we just need to recognize them.

Much to be thankful for

We fight over politics and elections, stomping our feet and gritting our teeth.  Yet, we raise our flags and take pride in our country, being the land of liberty.  God gave us a gift in the men and women called to service who maintain our freedom allowing us to openly pray to Him.  Our hearts should be filled with gratitude even as we stomp our feet and grit our teeth.

As a pandemic sweeps our world and fear grips our souls, there is much to be thankful for: The doctors and nurses who risk their lives caring for those suffering.  From the grocery clerks who stock our shelves to farmers who supply our food. The first responders who rush to our aid and the scientists striving around the clock to find cures and treatments.  So many people who are diligently working; the least we can do is be thankful.  

A question

Often, I question why some folks do not have faith.  Perhaps, if folks study and contemplate the diversity of the individual skills we possess, they might change their mind.  If we were all born to become doctors, then who would put out the fires?  If we all were meant to be firemen, who would cure the sick?   The vast network of talent and skill knitted together for the survival of mankind was not generated by a computer but by the hand of the Divine.

There is a moment of gratitude in every situation. When we can see the light of God cut through uncertain darkness, we discover hope.

This Thanksgiving may not resemble a Norman Rockwell painting for most of us. Instead, perhaps, this is the year we turn to the guest seated at the head of our table and, with a resounding, heartfelt shout, exclaim, 

“Dear God, thank you for you!”  Thank you for being with us, for teaching us that trusting you is how we find gratitude, joy, and peace.  It is how we love, how we forgive, and how we forge on with strength.  Your grace and mercy are immeasurable.  Please help us to believe that in all circumstances,  we are to give thanks for the blessings you bestow upon us.”

The COVID Grinch may try to sabotage the holidays, but nothing can steal our hopeful joy when faith provides us with grateful hearts. 

The Shining Stars of America

He was raised in a small southern town where his family operated a lumber company.  Most thought this bright young man would follow others’ paths in his family and become a lumberman.  However, God had another plan for Paul.

Paul left home to pursue higher education, then onto medical school, aspiring to become a surgeon.   After his residency, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and like many, he traveled to war.  He packed his medical bag and served his country throughout World War II onboard a hospital ship in the Pacific.

After the war ended, the doctor continued to serve America in the United States Public Health Service, where he retired as Medical Director by age 50.

Yet, his duty to the country was still not over.  Once he ended his government service, his family thought Dr. Walker would begin a private practice in his beloved Seattle or back home in Tennessee.    However, Paul thought otherwise.  He again packed his medical bag and moved to the impoverished coal-mining region on the West Virginia – Kentucky border.  There, he recruited other physicians to join him and establish a clinic.

For the remainder of his life, Dr. Paul Walker served those in dire need of his skills and aid.

Paul was a son, a father, and a healer.  However, he was also a proud veteran who remained on duty until his last day.

A million stories

There are a million stories, such as Paul’s.  Men and women who are called to serve our country.   They are touched by the hand of God to exemplify courage, commitment, and honor.  Each one leaves the comfort of their homes to save their homeland.  They are the elite group of citizens who were chosen to lead, serve, and give all to keep America free.

These blessed souls, who lay their lives bare on the fields of battle, are from every corner of America.  They are representative of every race, creed, and political persuasion.   Yet, they come together for one cause, defend their home, and claim victory for their fellow country’s citizens.

He was called to serve in Vietnam.  John was a lieutenant in the Navy assigned to a destroyer for over a year in those dark Asian waters.  He was my brother—an engineer by education, but a soldier by heart.  In the summer of 1965, our beloved grandfather died suddenly.   When the Red Cross attempted to contact John, he could not be located.  His ship, the USS Pritchett, was missing. 

For the better part of a year, my mother received no information on her son.  Where had the destroyer gone? 

One afternoon, the doorbell rang, a Navy representative stood with an envelope to hand my parents.  Tears welled in my mother’s eyes, fearing the worst.  However, the letter was from the office of the President, Lyndon B. Johnson.

The letter explained that the destroyer and its crew were deployed on a secret mission for months.  The President apologized to our family for causing suffering, but it was necessary to do so for the victory America hoped to ascertain.  He thanked my parents not only for their son’s courage but for their sacrifice. 

Lt. John came home

My brother was coming home.

Toward the end of Lt. John’s life, he would find comfort in the group who regularly assembled at his local VFW.  Their shared stories of war and comradery were healing and transformative.  On an April day in 1998, proud veterans assembled around their fallen comrade’s grave and wept for the loss of one of their own.

Stories of sacrifice and duty have swirled through our history since America began.   None are more important or more significant than the other.  However, within each narrative, we find loyalty, unity, valor, honor, and a deep unadulterated concern for others. 

Our servicemen and women come from every corner of our country to fight wars on foreign lands and train to shield America from our harshest onslaughts.  They are the elite, the chosen, the heroes, and the shining stars of our country.

We should honor those who serve not by our division but by our unity.  Applauding the fact that we can still debate, still worship, still vote, and still rejoice in our freedom. Our wars should always be fought on foreign soil against those who intend to harm us, not on the soil these brave men and women battled to save.

The Veterans,  our soldiers,  are the soul of America, the best of who we are, and we should learn from their stories, their devotion and realize that these are the ones who bestow honor upon us all.   

May all American hearts be filled with gratitude not only on Veteran’s Day but each day we live in the land of liberty.    

Let Us Move On

By the time you read this, the goblins of Halloween and the ghosts from this election year will hopefully not haunt us.  However, no matter what the results of November 3rd reveal, we must move on.

Some of us will undoubtedly not be happy after all the votes are counted, but we must abide by the majority’s decision.  After all, it is America.  We might want to settle down and remember that we elect a President for only four years.  We have the option to redecide our decisions in a mere 48 months.

Sure, a lot of damage can occur in four years, or progress can be made to better all citizens’ lives.  We should never jump to the conclusion that all is lost because our choice for the leader of our land did not win. 

What we all want is simple; we want America to triumph. We are so politically divided that it seems to me that because we are, we are losing.  The race for our government officials is over, but the race for unity is just beginning.  COVID has put a spotlight on our anger and our rudeness.   I never understood how a virus could become partisan, but how amazingly sad that it did.  

When folks are lying in a hospital alone, wondering if they will defeat their illness, I do not believe their priority is politics.   When doctors and nurses are frantically, exhaustingly trying to save a patient, I doubt they are worrying too much about the fate of their state senatorial races.  

Politics and pandemic

So, why did the pandemic become political?  Simply, to get your vote.  Now that the voting is over, what will the coronavirus do? It will still try to kill us after the first week of November.   What can we do?  We could try living by putting in place proper priorities.  The great American polarization should end on November 4th, period.  We must heal, and the only way we can do that is to watch out for each other’s well-being.   

The pandemic is not an American disease.  Its tentacles spread in waves across the globe, sickening and killing each nation’s residents no matter what type of government rules them.  COVID is not a hoax, nor is it something to merely get tired of.   I guess the next time we go to war to save our country, we should stop in the middle of it because we became fatigued.  Really? 

America is quieted, the rhetoric is over, but we are still in a fight to return to life as we once knew it.  Our citizens want to see school buses everywhere, watch parades, notice Santa’s on every corner, and businesses with doors wide open.  Each of us want to go to reunions, weddings, and parties.  We desire hugs, view smiles, and hold hands without worry.   We are drained of a virus stripping us of those joys, but the way we return to those joyous times is to continue doing the right things no matter how painful.  

Hungry for normalcy

Today we know America is suffering from oozing wounds, disappointments, and enough faded candidate signs to litter our land from coast to coast.  However, we are still free, we are still hopeful, and we will survive.  We just need to take our medicine, get our priorities in line, and be patient.  

Yes, we are hungry for a return to normalcy, but we need to act with wisdom to be well.  If we continue sowing seeds of division or rebellion, I doubt we will see any smiles anytime soon. 

For the love of America, let us put our swords down, clasp our hands together, and pray for God’s grace and mercy to fall on this land.

Let us rejoice in the spirit of solidarity, of peace, and move toward a brighter tomorrow. Hopefully learning that nothing in life is to be taken for granted.   Not our country, its freedom, its people, nor the air we breathe.    

Yes, the election is over.  Who knows what the next four years will bring? However, I do not believe the outcome is totally left in our government’s hands, but in our citizens’ behavior. Why not join to refresh America? Work together to rid the country of a viral menace first and watch our collective spirits’ soar.  

Let us turn off 24-hour news for a minute or a day, talk to God, and ask him to guide us toward a unifying tomorrow filled with compassion and understanding.  Take a shower and wash all the dirt of this long campaign season away and enjoy the sun rising in the morning of a new day. 

Let us move on.