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Giving Thanks

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By sandyleelee
November 29, 2002

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I've been thinking about the meaning of Thanksgiving to those of us who have no personal deity to whom we wish to direct our thoughts of gratefulness for the good things in our lives. To who am I thankful, if "thankful" is the right word.

I'm thankful to people -- to others. I'm thankful to every individual, living or dead, whose efforts or love or sacrifice has made my life richer and more fulfilling than it otherwise would have been.

I'm thankful to my parents, now gone, who gave more than they ever received from me -- which is the lot, I think, of most parents. Because of them, I'm alive. Because of them, I'm secure and self-confident. Because of them, I recognize an act of selfless love. I would thank them, were they here today, for their genes, and for their care, and for the values they taught me. I'd thank them for taking pride in my accomplishments and encouraging me to do my best, and to believe in myself. I'd thank them for the countless times they sacrificed their own pleasures and needs to insure that I was safe and healthy and happy, and for providing opportunities for me to have experiences which would teach and entertain and improve me. I thank my parents for giving me the kind of love every child deserves.

I thank my friends, past and present that through the years have accompanied me on this adventure. I thank them for the laughter and the tears, for the support and the companionship and the gossip and the, and the dreams, and all of the profundity of friendship. I thank them for the coffee and the wine, and for the secrets and the revelations. I thank them for being there when I needed them, and for needing me. I am thankful for their thoughtfulness and their attention to detail, and for teaching me the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. I thank them for the times they told me I looked wonderful when I didn't, and the times they told me I was making a mistake. I thank them for apologizing, and for accepting my apology. I thank them for picking me up when my car broke down, and for helping me organize the party. I thank them for birthdays and Christmases and for cards and letters and packages and emails. I thank them for their hospitality and their visits, and for sharing with me a part of this voyage we ultimately all take alone.

I am thankful, too, for many I don't know personally -- for those whose lives touch mine only through their works -- for those who have gone before us who strove to make the world a better place. I'm thankful for the artists and the poets and the composers and the thinkers, all of whom have contributed so greatly to my pleasure and my understanding. I thank Emily Dickinson and Paul Simon and Brahms. I thank Shakespeare and both Brownings. I thank Jane Austin and Marie Curie and Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi. I thank every soldier who sacrificed his life for America, and every family who gave their sons and daughters so willingly. I thank the doctors and the scientists, who saved my life when it was in danger, and whose work and expertise have extended the lives of us all. I thank every nurse who performs the unpleasant tasks associated with the illness of others, and every firefighter and policeman who has ever saved a life.

On this Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for -- and I do not require a deity to explain why my life is full and interesting and wonderful. The reasons may be found in the contributions made by others -- by human beings, just like me, who, through our mutual support make this life worth living and, more, ennoble it, sanctify it through acts of love and kindness.

And, on this Thanksgiving, which is coincidentally our wedding anniversary, I thank my husband for his love and his humor and his support, in good times and bad, and for putting up with me despite my many admitted faults. I thank him for his hard work and the sacrifices he makes on my behalf. I thank him for compromise, and for sharing in the care of our relationship. I thank him for his wisdom (and also for his foolishness). I thank him for being a tender lover and a worthy opponent in combat. I thank him for his trust, and for making it easy to trust him. I thank him for his grin, and the teasing, and for his ability to make me laugh when that's the very last thing I want to do. I thank him for sharing the quality of his intellect with me, and for exposing me to parts of life I would doubtless never have known without him. I thank him for his love. I just wish I could thank him for picking up his socks.

And I thank all of you for providing a harbor of sanity in this time when we are all under stress -- when the world seems topsy-turvy, and joys are mitigated by fears and we are beset by the demons of ignorance and insecurity and regression. I thank you for a place to go where we may order our thoughts -- test our ideas against one another, and learn from one another what we do, and what we should, believe.

Happy Thanksgiving, human beings.


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