Some years at Thanksgiving, it can sound a little trite as we once again say we have a lot to be thankful for, but I genuinely believe it, and I’m going to do my humble best to show you why.
There’s a lot wrong with this world, and with our country as well.
Some of it makes us very angry, so angry we get so caught up trying to fix the things that cry out for fixing that we overlook the blessings we have.
That’s natural enough. If we didn’t focus on the things that need fixing, we’d never get them fixed. But once a year we really ought to do what our ancestors did in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in November 1621. We need to turn aside from our cares and thank God for the good things we have.
A hundred and two souls stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock. A year later, only 53 of them were left.
You know what most of them died of? Scurvy.
How sad that is. Had they known what we know today, they need not have died.
Why they could have just taken the needles off the pine trees around them, boiled up a tea, drunk it, and been cured. They just didn’t know it — but we do.
I’ve often wished I could peer through their eyes on that first Thanksgiving day, seeing what they saw and feeling what they felt. What great people they must have been!
Imagine kneeling down and giving thanks to God when half the friends and family who embarked with you on a voyage to a new world, a voyage filled with hope, had been swept away by hunger, cold and disease.
Could you do that? Would gratitude have been what you felt?
Well, we can’t see through their eyes, but I’m going to ask you to look at the world through my eyes for a minute. Not because I see things more clearly than anyone else, but because there are a couple of ways in which I’ve been very lucky.
For one thing I’ve had a chance to see a lot of this world. And I didn’t travel the world as a tourist, eyes glazed over by sights of mountains, and rivers, and palaces, and castles. I went where I went because the Air Force sent me there. And I stayed there — as a resident. And so I met and worked with people who occupied the same low rung in their country that I occupied in mine. That’s an eye-opener, Johnny.
It is a humbling, and never to be forgotten, experience to see people who are no different from you — except that they may be better looking, smarter, and harder working — and realize how poorly they are rewarded for a life spent doing what all people, everywhere do — work, come together in marriage, raise children, make a home, eke out a living.
It was actually painful for me at times to see how little some people earned for their hard work.
Why did I have so much more than they had?
Because, by the merest chance, I happened to be born within the borders of this wonderful land of ours.
I tell you, living outside this country cannot help but change you. It will humble you as nothing else can. It will make you everlastingly grateful that you are an American. And it will make you wish with all your heart that when others work as hard as we do, they could reap the same rewards we do.
On top of that, on top of having seen what it means to have been born somewhere other than in this miracle of democracy, I am old. I haven’t always been old, but you get that way if you’re lucky. And when it happens, the blinders that covered your eyes when you were young fall away, and you begin to see things you missed.
Because you have had the privilege of seeing the way things once were, and the way they are now.
So coming from those two viewpoints, looking through the eyes of age, and through eyes that have seen things in foreign lands that they never wanted to see, let me tell you why I think we have a lot to be thankful for as Thanksgiving rolls around this year.
Let’s begin with the most basic thing: Life. My father died in 1937. He was a golf pro. One day, standing on a fairway, he was struck in the neck by a ball that caused a blood clot that caused a severe stroke. He began to recover. He could walk but couldn’t yet talk well, and so he and I used to go to the Victory Theater down the street, where I — 4 years old — would stand on tiptoe and say, “One child and one adult, please.”
But fate had other plans for Daddy. He contracted pneumonia, and in those days, pneumonia always brought a day of “crisis.”
It came. The doctor told Mom, “Watch him closely tonight. If his fever breaks he’ll live.”
It didn’t. Had we had a single dose of antibiotic, a simple injection would have saved his life. And so many millions more.
Who dies of pneumonia today?
No one. At least not for the lack of a few dollars worth of antibiotics.
Have you ever seen smallpox? I have. It isn’t pretty to see. I thought of adding a photograph to this column, but just could not do that to you. The day I left Karachi in 1961, 25 people in the city, about the usual number, died of smallpox.
Every year back then, 4 million people around the world died of smallpox.
How many people died of smallpox this year? None.
No one will ever again die of smallpox. Nor of many other diseases — if we simply inoculate people against them. We have vaccines for so many things I have no room to name them all.
You and I have all we want to eat, everything we can possibly wear, a warmed or cooled home, fresh, pure water — hot if we want it — and literally everything else we could conceivably need.
Notice I didn’t say everything we could conceivably want, so let’s talk about that.
Is it bad to want things? No it is not.
It was in wanting liberty that we forged this great land of ours.
If we want nothing, if we strive for nothing, we get nothing.
And so, like you and everyone else, I want things.
I want a government which listens to the people.
I want each of us to have everything he needs — he if earns it.
For those who stumble through no fault of their own, I want a helping hand.
And I want to see everyone who wants a job get a job, which means I want good old Washington to send the illegals home and bring our American jobs back from overseas.
You know what? If they did that, by the end of next year we would have 100 percent employment — and a surplus of 88 million jobs.
So, looking around, I find plenty of things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. Lolly, for example. And like you I suppose, I see some things I’d like to be grateful for next year.
Thank you, Lord! I am truly humbled by Your gifts.
And please, Lord. Next year?
Would you like to respond to this column? Or to something else in this edition of the Roundup? Just go to: http://www. paysonroundup.com/discussions/open/Imlistening/
Once there you will find a list of discussions taking place. You can click on the one with the same title as this column and leave a comment. You can also click on any of the other items, read them, and leave comments. Your opinion is welcomed and Tom Garrett will respond to anything you have to say.