Be grateful for things that really matter

All of the Halloween costumes have been put on the clearance racks. Everything you eat or drink can be ordered in Pumpkin Spice flavor. The Christmas decor has been up in most stores for a month. The leaves (and snow) have been falling. This can mean only one thing: it?s Thanksgiving season.

Yes, that often overlooked, if not dreaded, time of year has arrived again. Sand?wiched between the theatrical production of Halloween and the frenzy of Christmas, this holiday might be overlooked if it weren?t for the sheer quantities of food and football.

Logistics presents its own special headaches: with whom to spend the day, how long to stay, what to bring, and what to do if Crazy Uncle Eddie shows up again. Talk about first world problems?the consumption culture suddenly gets complicated by family politics.

Having surmounted those challenges, there?s still one tradition I don?t understand. Why on Earth would otherwise sane people go from being thankful for what they have, to going to extremes to get more? Yep, I?m talking about Black Friday, which now apparently includes Thanksgiving Day.

In my younger days, I worked retail. I stayed late stocking the store to prepare. I was there first thing in the morning to meet the hordes. I was the one that you yelled at because I just sold the last one to the person ahead of you in line, and you needed it worse than they did. For years, I hated Christmas?and by proxy, Thanksgiving, its harbinger.

Once and only once have I ever succumbed to the madness, and that was once too many. The masses of people shoving, jostling, grabbing, yelling and trampling were bad enough?and that was before the store even opened.

Once inside, the mob mentality took over. The only time I?ve ever seen anything like it was down south just before a hurricane. With a sense of impending doom, you go to the store and just start grabbing stuff. It doesn?t matter what it is, you need it.

Ditto Black Friday. Sometimes I wonder if somebody out there is still wearing the shirt that was grabbed out of my hand that day. And that?s when I started taking a good long look at what I?m really thankful for, and nowadays, what I?m teaching my kids to be thankful for.

First, I?m thankful we live out here, away from the big city. It?s quiet, and I?ve gotten to know and like a good many of you. (And, at this time of year, I?ll forgive you for running over three of my favorite barn kittens the other week and trying to dump a broken TV in our creek. Don?t let it happen again.)

I?m thankful that we have a house to live in, decent clothes to wear, and enough food to eat. I?m thankful for vehicles that work, even if they?re not new and they make funny noises. I?m thankful for chickens that make me laugh and occasionally try to jump in the truck to keep me company.

I?m thankful for teachers. Of course, the kids have excellent teachers at school, but it?s more than that. It?s our pastors and elders at church who teach by example. It?s folks around here willing to talk a while and show us new ways to do things.

I?m thankful for good friends. Each of you know who you are, and you know that we?d be worse off without you. Thanks for enriching our lives and letting us try to return the favors.

I?m thankful for health. At this time last year, I was heading downhill pretty fast. Thanks to some fast-acting folks at St. Luke, and two of the world?s most awesome paramedics. Thanks to you all for the prayers and positive energy you sent my way. Miracles do happen…just ask me.

And, most important, I?m so very thankful for family. Even the crazy ones. This last year has been a bit of a roller coaster on both sides, but we all made it through together.

So this Thanksgiving, stop. Look around you. Be actively thankful, because there are quite a few out there (and yes, even here) who would count themselves blessed to have your life for just one day. Some don?t have a place to live. Some don?t know where their next meal is coming from. Some haven?t seen their loved ones in years, or they?re fighting with the ones they do see. Some have habits and addictions holding them prisoner.

You can be their blessing. Yeah, I know, times are tight. Sometimes, all it might take is a smile or a kind word, but you know what they say about actions and words. Do it.

Sure, you might have been eyeing that new 60-inch flat screen or that new iPhone. But I can guarantee that the hope you can give away will last far longer than any gadget. The time you spend with your family is worth far more than anything you can buy.

And know this: the moment before your last breath, you won?t be thinking about how much money you saved. You?ll just wish you had spent more time on what really matters. Have a blessed Thanks?giving!

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