SILVER LININGS – by Al Sturgeon



Truth be told, Thanksgiving is typically a time of year I succumb to the vices of gluttony and professional football while meaning to pause and give thanks for blessings received. I’m not missing it this year. This year is different.

When I’ve paused in the past to actually give thanks, I’ve identified fuzzy things like a warm bed and a roof over my head for which to be thankful. Believe me, I’m not saying those things aren’t important, but I’ve learned this year that they can be a bit overrated. I’ve now done without. They were near the top of my list last year. This year is different.

I used to be thankful for cars and movie theaters and two-ply toilet paper and those cute little toothpicks Applebee’s puts in your club sandwiches. Now I still like all those things (especially the thicker, softer toilet paper), but this year they all seem a little less valuable than before. I’m still thankful for the little things, but this year is different.

I used to be thankful for a nice stable life where everything was in place. I was especially fond of planners and things “working out” and days when nothing major happened. I used to be thankful for being comfortable in other words. That doesn’t seem so important now. This year is most definitely different.

In short, I used to be thankful for things. I used to be thankful for ideas and concepts and institutions and ways of life. Well, I’m still thankful for all this on one level or another, but the difference is that these used to be my leading ladies. These used to be the things that came to mind first when I began rattling off my Thanksgiving list. They aren’t first anymore. That was before. This year is different.

This year people like Grady come first on my list. Grady has the most Southern accent in the Milky Way galaxy (fact, not opinion), and other than that, most wouldn’t even notice this quiet, unassuming man. I came to know him rather well, however, on one of his four one-thousand-mile trips to help hurricane victims we know and love. We now know and love Grady, too. I’m most thankful for people like him this year.

And this year I’m thankful for kids from Fort Cherry Elementary School in Washington, Pennsylvania, and the 11-year-old young man who brought the gift cards they bought so families like mine could go to Wal-Mart and buy groceries. They don’t know me, but I know them intimately. They are angels of mercy. This year I’m thankful for them.

This year I’m thankful for Koryn, a cute young girl from Killen, Alabama, who plays the dulcimer like nobody’s business. She came on a mission trip to our church and ended up sick. She wasn’t so upset about the sick part, bless her heart, but she hated missing out on the work. That’s what she came to do. Instead, she brought us music, and with it a pleasant example for my young daughter to see up close. I’m thankful for Koryn.

This year I’m thankful for the Norfolk Chainsaw Ministry Team, six guys who came to sweat and stink and cut up every tree they could find – especially for elderly folks who have no one else. They worked all day for nothing. Wait, I mean they worked all day for no money. They worked for something. Love. This year I’m most thankful for people like them.

This year I’m thankful for Roy and Joann, and for Larry and Jean, two elderly couples from Arizona who loaded up their trucks and trailers and drove a few thousands miles to stay for a couple of months to rebuild lives instead of watching Wheel of Fortune. They aren’t wasting a second of their lives or an ounce of their talents and energies. I’m sure I’ve seen people like them before, but I’ve never noticed. I’ve noticed this year.

This year I’m thankful for Gene. I watched Gene, whose personal house sustained little damage, sleep on the floor of our church building every night until all of his fellow members had a bed to sleep in at night. Just because. I’ve seen him bubble with enthusiasm (and Gene bubbles very little, mind you) over the prospect of spending every waking hour helping people. I’ve been thankful for Gene before, but this year the level of my gratitude is different.

This year I’m most thankful for my wife and daughters. Oh, I’ve always been thankful for them (I think it’s in the contract somewhere), but this year the thankfulness runs deeper. This year I’m thankful for their indomitable strength. It was tested this year, and they passed with flying colors. They are more than my family now; they are heroes in my heart, heroes of mythical proportion. They are invincible. I’m always thankful for them, but this year…well, it’s just different.

There are a million more. One day in November will not suffice this time around.

Yes, this Thanksgiving is very, very different. Hurricane Katrina gets the credit, but I thank God because this year the objects of my thankfulness have changed dramatically. Instead of things, I’m now most thankful for beautiful people filled with pure love. That’s top of the line now. I’m glad that this year is different for that fact alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: