Thanks For Tiny Blessings

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Yes, fellow parents, I know. They have short attention spans, they think they know everything, and they hate learning new things.

But adults aren’t total washouts. Even the slowest among them like, oooooh, me, for example can unlock their brains and absorb invaluable Thanksgiving Day lessons from their children.

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When Shoshana Wright celebrated Thanksgiving 1999 at Julia Randall Elementary School, her smile gave new meaning to the phrase “pilgrim’s pride.”

There’s plenty to learn. Think about it.

Adults can live in the same apartment building for 23 years and never even meet their neighbors. A kid can’t live anywhere for more than 15 minutes without tracking down and befriending every child within the same zip code.

When adults cross paths on the street, they avoid making eye contact. When kids pass each other on the street, they seek out eye contact on the off-chance they’ll get a new playmate out of it.

Adults teach their children to never talk to strangers for any reason in almost any situation. While such paranoia has become sadly necessary, children are brave enough to set it aside when they sense that the stranger at hand is in dire need of a friend.

My daughter was 3 years old when she and I found ourselves in a McDonald’s restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. At home, relatives were late, dinner had been put off, my daughter had been starving, and I was put in charge of getting her out of the kitchen.

Sitting at a nearby table was a mid-50-ish woman who asked if we’d watch her belongings for a few minutes. “Sure,” I said, and off she went.

“Ooooh,” my daughter sighed. “That lady is soooo pretty. When I’m big, I hope I’m pretty like her!”

When the woman returned, I considered passing along the compliment but then changed my mind, fearing it would be misunderstood. I chose to behave like an adult and pretend this woman didn’t exist even though she was sitting 4 feet away.

My daughter, meanwhile, opted to act like a child. She ran directly to the object of her admiration and blurted, “You are very, very pretty!”

Immediately, the woman’s eyes welled with tears. She took my daughter into her arms and thanked her as profusely as most adults would thank the lottery commission for their million-dollar prize.

A while later, after my daughter went outside to frolic in the McPlayground, the woman explained her response.

“I’m in the middle of a divorce,” she said. “It’s been very ... difficult. I don’t even know what I’m doing from one minute to the next. I don’t even know why I’m eating Thanksgiving dinner in McDonald’s. I could barely figure out how to go to the rest room without taking all my things with me. I’ve been feeling so bad about myself. And then your little girl ...”

The tears returned. But they weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of a sudden and unexpected explosion of hope. Tears unlike any she had cried in some time, I guessed.

It was a wonderful moment: genuine human contact had been made in a place where most conversations begin and end with “Pass the catsup.” And it wouldn’t have happened if my daughter had been a chip off the old block.

When the woman left, she made a point of exiting through the playground to hug my daughter one more time and wish her a happy Thanksgiving. As she walked toward her car, you could tell she had been touched by some sort of magic.

And so had I. And so had my daughter, who waved goodbye to her old friend while hanging upside down on the monkey bars.

Thanksgiving reflections

“Thanksgiving is America’s national chow-down feast, the one occasion each year when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty.” Michael Dresser

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.” Irv Kupcinet

“The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts … nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” H. W. Westermayer

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” W.T. Purkiser

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”" Meister Eckhart

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

“Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for annually, not oftener if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous 12 months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.” Mark Twain

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