Thursday, November 22, 2012


I find it more than a little ironic that our national day of Thanksgiving comes just after a national political campaign in which one of our major party tried to argue that we should not acknowledge the role others play in our accomplishments.  "You didn't build that", Pres. Obama's off-hand rebuke to an imagined interlocutor who insists higher marginal tax rates are a threat to his or her continued success, became a rallying cry among many on the right.  There was enough push-back against the idiocy that, I think, the President's point is clear: we all need one another, working together, for all of us and each of us, to succeed.

Yet, there is a plurality out there that insists this just isn't the case.  Individual success, whether in business or the professions or the arts or the trades or what have you is just that: individual success.  Never mind the millions who came before, creating the standards by which success is measured.  Never mind the teachers and mentors, the friends and associates who gave us the tools and knowledge.  Never mind the larger society, agreeing together to abide by the rule of laws that gives to all and each certain freedoms so that we can succeed.  Never mind the local officials who work tirelessly and very often with little reward and no recognition to make sure roads and sidewalks are usable and accessible; that our children have the best possible schools, that our streets and alleys and byways don't fill with garbage and waste.  Never mind the more far-sighted in our communities who studied and proposed and pushed through building waste-water treatment facilities, recycling programs, and local ordinances regarding property maintenance so diseases and vermin don't congregate, fester, and spread.

Yeah, why should we be thankful for these things?  What do they have to do with whether or not the local grocer or pharmacist or clothier makes a living, right?

So, today, I'm thankful for everything.  Every single thing that surrounds me.  Not just my family, although Lord knows I am thankful each moment for them.  I'm thankful for the air I breathe.  The water I drink (and use to make my morning coffee!).  I'm thankful for the beautiful, homey home in which we live, surrounded by nearly an acre of beautiful land filled with trees and shrubs and berry-plants and gorgeous wildflowers that color it in spring and summer.  I'm thankful for the years I spent studying, taking tests, writing papers so I could have not one, not two, but three diplomas to hang on my wall, testament not to any great work I've done, but to the hard work and faith of the teachers, professors, and mentors who worked hard to provide a place and space where and when I and others could study.  I'm grateful for those who gave their money for scholarships, for the banks who provided student loans, without which none of that education would have been possible.

I have a wall of books I didn't write.  I read them not because I had some magic ability to read, but because first my mother then a few teachers early on were patient and persistent, giving me the best, most wonderful, most subversive gift ever granted human beings: the ability to read.

Not a thing I possess is mine.  Not a person in my life, whether professional, casual, or intimate, is there because of any grace or gift or charm I might possess.  Even my pets, a wonderful St. Bernard who is without doubt the best dog I've ever known and our glorious black cat, Casper, aren't mine; possessing these living creatures, outside the legal sense in which they are, indeed "ours", would be a moral crime.  No, they share our space, are parts of our family, enriching it immeasurably.

Most of all, I acknowledge this Thanksgiving morning that each moment of my life has been, and will continue to be, a gift from a loving, generous, prodigally loving God.  All that surrounds me, whether natural or not, human or animal or inanimate - not a lick of it is mine.  It belongs to God.  Even the skin that sits on my frame, the heart beating in my chest, the blood that keeps my tissues fed - these are all God's.  I am thankful today because all that is, this wonderful gift, had nothing at all to do with me, and I can revel in my irrelevance to everything save the God who created it all.  I own nothing, am no one of any consequence, yet God knows me, loves me, and has called me by name.

For that, I am and will continue to be thankful, as the Psalmist says, all the days of my life.

Virtual Tin Cup

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