“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”
– St. Ambrose
“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.”
– St. John Paul II
“Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.”
– Samuel Johnson
Was the great Dr. Johnson looking ahead to 2019? Have we become gross? It appears so, at least to the extent that gratitude, thankfulness, and even the utterance of “thank you” seem to be losing their place in our common discourse. And it’s not just the political hatchet fight on display every day that makes it seem so. Indeed, Thanksgiving itself is losing its meaning. Aside from football, dinner table etiquette around sensitive topics, and Black Friday shopping massacres, will we see, hear, or read anything on the why’s, to whom’s, and for what’s of Thanksgiving? Maybe it’s the presumed linkage of gratitude with a Higher Power that makes an increasingly secular society squeamish. If so, should leave gratitude out of it? Maybe just call it “Giving Day?” The retailers might go for that. But talk about gross!
As for me, the last Thursday in November will be a perfect opportunity to remember what I’m thankful for, in keeping with the holiday’s real meaning. That includes recalling the debt of gratitude I owe my parents for the values instilled, lessons taught, and sacrifices made. My mom, who passed away on Valentine’s of this year at age 96, was smart, outspoken, loving, volatile, and a marvelous teller of hilarious stories from her growing up in the ethnic stew of Newark, NJ. My dad was quieter, tough, hard-working, athletic, and an Army officer turned business guy with an acute sense of right and wrong. Both came from very humble beginnings. They were charitable, patriotic, religious, and scrupulously honest. They loved their kids unconditionally.
While gorging on turkey and the works, I’ll be giving thanks for what they gave me. And I’ll be thinking about what I’m passing onto my kids, how well I play my various (and changing) roles as a dad, and what my family will be saying about me after I no longer occupy a place at the dinner table. And I’ll think about all those kids today who don’t have the two loving parents I was lucky enough to have. Or a dad to teach them how to throw a football, how and when to fight, how to be honest and respectful, why we must be charitable toward the “least of our brethren,” when a kick in the ass is well-deserved, and why we should give thanks every day for all we have.
I’ll also give thanks for the opportunity to focus on the mission of Fathers & Families, while working with great people like Rufus Lynch, Jay Cherney, Allan Shedlin, Karen Andrade-Mims, Bill Champagne, Michael Flott, Wilson Goode, Ronald McPhail and many others working hard to improve lives by improving fatherhood.
So over to you: what will you be giving thanks for?