Giving Thanks For What We Have Today

November 27, 2008

This year’s holiday season promises to be different from those in recent memory.  With the recession, money worries, job losses and more, people across the country are scaling back and traveling less this year.  Retailers are making a stronger push than ever for their Black Friday” shopping promotions, knowing that shoppers wallets are emptier and tighter.

Our incoming President, with three press conferences in three days and a prime-time interview with Barbara Walters on Thanksgiving Eve, is a beacon of cautious hope.  We all need more of that, and a chance to allow ourselves to appreciate the good things in our lives that we still have now.

For some here in Southeast Texas, what we have now is considerably less than what we had a couple months ago.  As the Chronicle says, this morning, “After Ike, this Thanksgiving is like no other.”  I was particularly moved by the story of Edna Henson:

This is the first time in 46 years that Edna Henson will not host her family’s Thanksgiving dinner in the brick house she and her husband built along Galveston Bay.

This year, the dining table lies sideways on the patio, the living room furniture is piled across the street, and Henson doesn’t want to hear the word “Thanksgiving,” even when one of her four children offers to salvage the holiday.

“Baby, I told them don’t even mention it,” the 81-year-old widow of Galveston’s former police chief says grimly. “Anybody can eat anything, anywhere. You don’t have to have a big meal.”

The newspaper also has accounts of life this week in Oak Island, LaBelle, and San Luis.  It’s all worth reading, helping those of us who have our lives intact to keep things in perspective.  I am very grateful simply for what I have, and I’m not going to worry about things I may lose or have lost in the past.

This holiday finds family members in dire positions.  Freddie’s elderly mother has been in the hospital for a week with a broken hip.  After surgery yesterday, she remains in ICU.  Assuming her blood pressure is stabilized and she makes progress, she will be transferred to a nursing facility for at least a few weeks.  Due to dementia and her physical condition, it is unlikely she will be able to return to Freddie’s sister’s home where she and Freddie’s father have been living these last few years.

Because their retirement stipends are too low to afford continuing nursing care, yet also too high to qualify for Medicaid, it is unclear what will happen then.  That is a bridge to be crossed, but for today, this one day, it’s not on our minds.

Another of Freddie’s sisters has been in the hospital undergoing treatment related to leukemia.  Diagnosed with CLL years ago — could it be seven? — she has been inpatient a few times in the past but this year has been healthy, in remission.  Now her platelets are down and she is in danger.

Having been treated the last few days, she wanted to go home from the hospital today, Thanksgiving Day.  Holidays are important to her, especially significant in her life.  They let her go.  Now she is at home, alone in her apartment, and she is very depressed.  It’s likely tomorrow she will have to check back into the hospital again.

I wish I could tell her what Edna Henson said.  Eat any meal, anywhere.  Thanksgiving is not the same?  Baby, don’t mention it.

We are here, today.  We are still alive, today.  Some of us are frail, some are sleeping in tents, some have lost all they have, and loved ones may be gone, too.  Yet we are here.  Today.

My mother used to repeat to us, “Sufficient unto the day.”  I think the complete passage bears repeating now:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Matthew 6:34

Today is not evil, though, and the modern translations use the word “trouble” instead.  This day, with trouble and worry and hope and love, is a challenge.  This day is an opportunity.  And yes, no matter what, this day is a celebration


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