SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -
- Thomas Hood, No!
What do you mean Thanksgiving was last week? Why wasn’t I notified of this? Boy, that Daylight Saving Time thing really screwed me up.
Sure, I noticed there were Christmas decorations up at Wal-Mart, but I noticed that back in September. It’s one of those things you pretend to ignore, like feminine hygiene commercials. Besides, by the time Thanksgiving came around it had been so drowned out by Christmas hoopla that it kind of sneaked up on me.
Well, I suppose you’re still expecting a belated column about what I’m thankful for.
Frankly, I’ve always considered Thanksgiving falling in November to be one of those cruel ironies of life, similar to alcoholic actors making a hundred times more money than the police officers who arrest them. I’m one of those “glass is half empty, cracked and leaking” kinds of guys to begin with. Add to that my general hatred of short days and cold weather, and you have to wonder why I don’t start heaving turkey drumsticks at the next so-and-so who wishes me a happy holiday.
Add to that the fact that my job sometimes involves encountering both people at their worst, and the worst kind of people. I actually have a signature line I’ve been known to use after one too many people spent the weekend lying, cheating, stealing, fighting, drinking and stinking: “I hate people. This world would be so much better without them.” Okay, not terrible imaginative, but sincere.
Of course, even if the world was better without them, who would be around to enjoy it?
The irony lies in the fact that the best thing in this world is people. Not necessarily the same people, of course. Then again, there are some people who demonstrate both the best and worst in humanity, depending on their mood and the time of day. Today, however, I’m going to focus on just the good ones, because this is Thanksgiving we’re talking about, not Complaintgiving.
(Wouldn’t that be cool, to have a holiday called Complaintgiving? It should be in January.)
I know people who’ve gone through a much worse time than I have, yet still have something wonderful – the ability to look on the bright side, to find the good things about their lives. If I’m grateful for anything, it’s that the world still holds optimists. Even if I sometimes want to slap them on the back of the head.
There are the usual suspects when it comes to the people who bring good into your life: friends, neighbors, coworkers, people who randomly pass out twenties on the street. You can’t really choose any of these people, not even (contrary to popular belief) friends. I’ve never chosen a friend. Finding a good friend is like waking up to a sunny day: It’s just as often a pleasant surprise as it is a prediction.
You especially can’t choose who to get the twenties from, unless you’re armed, which tends to cut down on the friends.
So the good ones are something to be cherished, as are groups you might join that bring you into another family. Now, I’ll grant you that the mafia and the Klu Klux Klan are brotherhoods, but I’m thinking about something a bit more upbeat. In my case, I’ve spent 26 years in the brotherhood of firefighters, which gets into your blood like a bad turkey sandwich. (I need to work on my metaphors.) They’re the greatest brotherhood in the world, with the possible exception of the bikini ladies in the Playboy mansion, who would actually be a sisterhood. And they wouldn’t let me into that club.
Then there’s the internet, a technology widely put down by a lot of people, sometimes deservedly so. It’s the best place to go for bomb-making tips, computer viruses, misinformation, and pictures that would make even the occupants of the aforementioned Playboy mansion blush.
It’s also a great way to expose yourself to the WDW (Whole Darn World). I mean figuratively. If the fire department was my first experience with an extended family, the internet was the second. I went there seeking fellow writers, and came back with scores of friends who care -- every bit as much as anyone I see every day, with the exception of my banker, to whom I owe a great deal of money.
As I’ve posted my various writings and rantings, I’ve gained readers – fans, even. I also became a fan of great writers who I’d never have read without the internet.
I’ve talked to people in Britain about horses, Malaysia about Ramadan, Canada about the weather (hey – it’s Canada!), South America about TV shows, and the Philippines about religion. I now have close friends in – let me count – at least 15 of these United States.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m blessed to be exposed to so many different cultures and beliefs. Sure, it’s possible the 28 year old female Italian I’m talking to is actually a 55 year old male Frenchman, but I’ve had fewer bad experiences with people on the internet than in real life.
So there you have it: a world of caring, concerned people who might not have time to do more than forward a joke or wave while passing on the street, but who will be there for you when you really need them, whether it’s with a prayer, a compassionate word, or a hand up. I’ve been, to coin a phrase, blessed.
How do you like that? November, and I still found something to be thankful for. Guess I’ll keep that leftover drumstick.