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The Rain Is Shining — A Thanksgiving Message

Monday November 21, 2016

If we are sick, celebrating Thanksgiving can, like an old turkey, be kind of tough. If we have a debilitating, progressive, incurable disease, what in the world do we have to be thankful for?

Being with friends and families is nice and all, but is also invites envy and embarrassment. We are surrounded by happy, healthy, people who remind us by their very presence that we are not one of them. No wonder they look so happy on Thanksgiving. They have lots to be thankful for, like the fact that they are not us.

They step lively without fear of stumbling. They play ping pong without stepping on their own toes. They don’t drop food off their forks. They don’t have to worry that they will spill grape jelly on their lavender shirt. They don’t have to wonder if their face is a mask. They don’t speak “words” that sound like “worms” or “warts” or “wzklrms.”

But hold on, pal. Would we really, even if we could, trade places with any of those “happy” people out there? They may not have our disease, but perhaps they suffer from something worse: a crumbling romance, a demanding addiction, an impending financial ruin, abuse, cowardice, whatever. Let’s not waste time in envy. Whatever disease we have, the other guy could have something a whole lot worse. Or she could be far less capable than we are of dealing with it.

Let’s also not waste time worrying about embarrassment. To be sure, everything we do on Thanksgiving has the potential to make us blush or cringe. Will we trip on that rug? Will we lurch forward when reach out to hug someone we haven’t seen for a year? When we open our mouths to shovel in a piece of mince pie, will a shiny sliver of drool come down to welcome it?

Remember, most if us are among friends on Thanksgiving. They will try hard not to be embarrassed by our embarrassment. They will try to include us in their awkward conversations, offer to bring us an appetizer that looks like oyster snot on a piece of celery. They will offer to help us remove our coat without calling attention to the fact that we need help removing our coat.

They are kind people. They will not let us get away with isolating ourselves. They will work hard to include us. We appreciate that they work so hard to include us, but we are embarrassed by their kindness. The last thing we want is to ruin their Thanksgiving by putting a damper on their good time. This is supposed to be a happy day, and we don’t want to mess it up for them. We don’t want to embarrass them with our clumsiness.

So what should we do? If we drop our roll, we should roll with it. If our spoonful of cranberry sauce shakes when we lift it onto our plate, we should shake it off. If we spill gravy on our fly, we should swat that fly. If the stain on our pants looks dark, we should make light of it: “Hey, at least it’s not on the back!”

If we refuse to be embarrassed, no one else will be embarrassed either. If we spend a lot of time worrying about making fools of ourselves, we’ll wind up making fools of ourselves.

We need not be embarrassed by who we are or what disease we have. We need not wish we were someone else. We need to be thankful for the person we are and welcome the special guest who has invited himself along to our Thanksgiving dinner.

On this special day, we need to remember all the things we have to be thankful for, like the new friends this disease has brought into our lives.

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The sun is shining on this Thanksgiving day. That sunshine is lovely here in the Northwest. Think of all those millions of people in the world’s deserts for whom the shining sun is a blistering sun. It does not warm them, it scorches them. It does not grow their crops, it withers them.                        

Or maybe it is raining on this Thanksgiving day. If it is, think of it as a shining rain that makes things green and replenishes those mountain reservoirs that supply us with drinking water all summer long. Think of all those millions of parched people who would die for that rain, or who may die without it. We should be thankful for the shining sun and the shining rain. 

We can eat a locally-grown organic honey-crisp apple for breakfast. Most people in the world cannot.

On this, the most American of American holidays, we have friends and relatives to spend the day with. Think of all those homeless, incarcerated, or enlisted Americans who don’t, and who have no special food to eat and no special table to eat it at. Think of all those people all around the globe who have never heard of Thanksgiving and who would envy us if they had.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to teach our friends and family, by our own example, how to deal with an unfortunate deal, how to smile through our mask, how to love what we have rather than wish we didn’t have it.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity not to whine.

Thanksgiving gives us the chance to take what life offers without, like Captain Ahab of the Pequod, demanding revenge against a white whale named Moby Dick, without dragging the whole crew down with us as we seek that revenge.

Thanksgiving gives us a chance to show to others our courage and our gratitude for the good fortune we have been blessed with.

Thanksgiving gives us a chance for a day to stop fighting our disease and start embracing it.

A Thanksgiving holiday gives us a chance to remind ourselves that the word holiday comes from the words holy and day. Thanksgiving is a holy day. We can keep it holy by being thankful that we have such a good life, such a good family, such good friends, such good food, such good rain, such a shining disease.

Thank you.

Peter G. BeidlerPeter G. Beidler
Peter G. Beidler

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