It might be easy to be other than thankful this year. After all, I have not had a real paycheck since I was laid off from work in March. It is very nearly impossible to feel great about going into the holidays without an income.
My graying hair is thinning – except in my ears and on my back.
My eyesight is failing – except when I bring in the text really, really close.
My hearing is fading – except when those darn kids play that crazy music they play.
My six-pack abs look more like the carton of a 12-pack – or medium-sized kitchen appliance.
My knees ache when the weather changes – and when it doesn’t.
My arches are falling – and my butt is chasing ’em.
So, if I were to wallow just a tiny bit this holiday season, I might get a pass from most of those who know me.
But I recognize that it was not my fault that I was laid off. It was one of the effects of a changing economy. I was doing things to contribute at work and at least a few people valued that contribution. And I will contribute wherever I land on my feet.
I also recognize that I am not alone – unfortunately, there are nearly 16 million Americans out of work, not counting those who have completely given up on finding a job. Misery loves company, goes the saying, and I certainly have a lot of company.
I recognize that whatever situation I am in, I know that it just seems worse than it actually is and that it will be better.
And I recognize that there are far more people who are far worse off than me; in many ways, I am fortunate.
And – this may surprise me more than anyone else – I have been relatively positive since being laid off. I knew from the start that I would find a job eventually. I knew I would survive and later thrive. I knew that the job hunt would take longer than I wanted and I was prepared for that. I did not expect it to take as long as it has taken, but I was prepared mentally for the long haul, so I can endure this.
So, what am I thankful for?
I am thankful for my Mom and sister, one living in The County in the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine and the other living in southern Maine with her family. Both are relatively healthy and have been as helpful as they could be during my time of unemployment. They have offered to take me in – as families should under such circumstances – and offered me advice. Sometimes repeatedly.
I am thankful for my nephew and niece.
I am thankful for my friends, new and old.
I am thankful for my health. I am still standing upright and that is a good sign.
I am thankful for Facebook. Yes, a person can be thankful for something as silly – and somewhat cult-like – as Facebook. I joined Facebook a few months after being laid off and it gave me at least a slim opportunity to socialize. It is amazing how much a person misses talking to other people, even co-workers. Employers may not see this as a priority, but socializing is pretty big deal for the people working for them. It helps provide a very basic, very human element to their lives.
Facebook also has given me a chance to reconnect with people I have known all my life, but have not spoken with in years. I have reconnected with high school and college buddies and former colleagues. It has been great being able to look forward to reading updates from people I went to high school with decades ago or learn of the latest achievement of a college buddy or former colleague.
And increasingly I am thankful for the men and women in uniform who serve this nation. War always must be the last resort. All other means of dealing with conflict must be used before there is even thought of war. But when there is no other choice, no other option, no other means for avoiding the enviable, then there must be men and women willing to defend this country, here and abroad. And for that and for them I am thankful.
I am thankful for things American. I am thankful for hot dogs, football, apple pie and Chevrolet. I am thankful for 50-cent coffee refills. I am thankful for baseball. I am thankful for Boston baked beans, Philly cheese steak, Chicago pizza, New Orleans jambalaya, Texas barbecue, New Mexico chili, California wines and Washington state apples.
I am thankful for Acadia National Park, Portland Head Light, Ironsides, the Liberty Bell, the St. Louis Arch, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, the Appalachian Mountains, Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, California redwoods, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I am thankful that in this country we have Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhist, agnostics and atheists, and more working to make this country strong.
I am thankful that we are a nation of many and varied political views. But more I am thankful that despite that – maybe because of that – we continue be a united nation. In the past decade we as a national have endured so many things – a disputed presidential election, terrorist attacks on our shores and in our skies, two subsequent wars, devastating economic recession that has left some homeless, others jobless – that would have ripped apart any lesser nation. I am thankful we are better than to succumb to that.
I am thankful for plenty and have plenty for which to be thankful.