There’s something different this year about “Thanksgiving.” Today, as I reflect back on past Thanksgiving days, I realize I can’t recall a year when I spent this day with family. And when I say “family”, I mean ANY of my own family. Last year, I spent it alone in Elkhart, Kansas. Literally. I had planned on seeing my children in Tribune but, for reasons not worth mentioning, that didn’t happen. The year before I was in Liberal, Kansas and spent the day with strangers in a place I never dreamed I would be in. The year before that, as well as the one prior, well….I honestly don’t recall the last time it was a “Happy Thanksgiving.” This year, that’s changed.
So today, I’m thankful in many ways and for many people. I’m thankful for my mother, who gave me the gift of life. I’m thankful for my father, who gave me the opportunity to grow into the man I am today. I’m thankful for my sisters; Stephanie, Lissa, Casey, WenDee and Mona. I’m especially thankful for Casey and WenDee, who were there for me at one of the darkest moments in my life nearly three years ago. I’m thankful for my children, Christy and Jess, and though we are apart now and separated by thousands of miles, I’m thankful for all the “moments” they’ve given me. There are many fond memories of my children and I choose to take only those with me as I move forward today. I’m thankful to now be reunited with my little sister Mona and her family as we spend this day together. I’m thankful for my friends and former colleagues I was honored to be associated with in my banking career, especially those that stood by me, who believed in me when I was at my worst, and who I can still call a “friend” today. Finally and most importantly, I’m thankful for the most incredible woman in my life, the woman with whom I share my love and spirit with, the woman who loves ME for WHO I am and not for WHAT I have or don’t have. She will be reading this and I have only three words to say to her; I love YOU!
But, there’s something else different about this year and perhaps the biggest reasons of all to be thankful. I’m ALIVE and I’m FREE. Less than three years ago, I almost lost the first and, for a time, I DID lose the second. And to whom or to what am I thankful for those gifts? GOD. Pure and simple, He brought me back from the brink of near death and today, I choose to return that gift to YOU. Today, I resolve to live my life according to those values we all hold dear; truth, honor, dignity, humility, sacrifice, and love. I’m sure you might think of others but really, it’s quite simple. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Yes, the Golden Rule. And there are many other simple concepts, basic core values that are or should have been instilled in ALL of us by our parents when we were born and raised by.
You hear it all the time, “Life is complicated, life is tough.” Sure it is, God didn’t intend for this journey to be easy, He’s more interested in our character and what we become. That’s why we are called “human beings” and not “human doings.” BE the change you want from your world. Don’t ask what someone else can DO for you. Don’t expect the world to be what you want it to be. It starts with YOU. Life is NOT that complicated, it’s really quite simple when you think about it. Be THANKFUL for the gifts you have, the simple gifts. If you are ALIVE and you are FREE, you’re reading this. Everything else in your life; your house, your car, your job, whatever material things you have mean NOTHING. They’re just “stuff.” I’m reminded of something one of my former bank colleagues once said about that topic and the materialistic world we live in. He said, “I’ve never seen a U-Haul show up at a funeral.” Yep, the phrase “You can’t take it with you.” We came into the world with NOTHING and we leave the same way. Make SURE in between you make a POSITIVE impact on your world and everyone in it.
So, at those “moments” when you’re having a bad day for whatever reason, be THANKFUL for two things: LIFE and FREEDOM. Make your world a better place for those two gifts God gave you! Take it from me, I appreciate as much as anyone what those words mean and trust me when I say this, they mean a lot!