Friendship, Loyalty, and Love Require Coupons
It’s Thanksgiving in the Big 50. And if you’re there, you may be wondering, Who the hell sends out a post on a holiday and doesn’t include a coupon? Well, it’s not a holiday where I sit, and it’s been awhile since I celebrated Thanksgiving properly and I’ve kind of forgotten what it was like. The memories are hazy, but I remember lots and lots and lots of food. I remember a parade, wall-sized TVs with lots and lots of football, and many, many bottles of wine. I remember people taking a moment to say what they were thankful for. I remember a President telling a Nation, “The terrorists may try to take our Freedom, but be thankful they’ll never take our Black Friday.” Or maybe that was a Retail Manager speaking to a Non-Union Employee at a store where I worked. After that first bottle of wine, patriotism and commerce could run together. Or maybe that was me speaking to a Fellow Shopper. After the second bottle of wine, I was ready to hit a 3a.m. sale to buy something else to be thankful for, no matter who I had to trample. I also remember, between commercials, ABC Specials reminding us to give thanks for the less material things: the food, the roof over our heads, the people around us, and the health to enjoy it all. And, obviously, these things are worth being thankful for. They’re fortunes.
Fortune Favors the Bold or the Damned Lucky
I remember a Thanksgiving when I was college-poor. At that time, most of my meals were canned biscuits and beans that cost less than a dollar. Occasionally, for twenty cents more, I’d splurge and add cheese and an egg. I’m thankful I no longer live like that. I also remember one Thanksgiving watching this guy reach into a public trash can on the street, retrieve half a piece of bread, and start eating it. It was the casualness with which he did it, the same nonchalance I display when I reach into the fridge and drink juice from the bottle when I think no one’s looking, that made me think, “F* * * me. I’m thankful I’ve never had to do that.” And that there is fortune.
Another Thanksgiving I visited The Killing Fields in Cambodia. (I know how to celebrate, right? Who wants to hang with this guy?!) I won’t go into the history of the place but I will say that the name is an understatement and it’s beyond tragic. I’ll also tell you that I had no problem that day coming up with something to be thankful for, something like simply being fortunate enough to be born anywhere else during the years it earned its namesake.
I was down in Ciudad Bolívar last weekend where I took the photo above. Like I mentioned here, it’s one of the poorest areas in Bogotá. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all Sally Struthers on you and use this kid to make you feel guilty. I won’t play on those pumpkin pie-lined heartstrings, telling you how this kid lives on potato chips while you’re putting away an entire turkey. I won’t compare his shoddily constructed one-room home to your house. I really won’t because the idea of feeling guilty for being fortunate drives me crazy. (Perhaps, instead, guilt should come from an awareness of what we do or don’t do with our fortunes.) But I will tell you that when I leave Ciudad Bolívar, I can’t help but be thankful. This kid deals with the poor nutrition, the lack of comfort, the ignorance and the violence indicative of poverty, but there’s something more. There’s the amount of work to simply survive the hardship of meeting basic needs. There’s the lack of opportunity that brings. I spend my time and energy thinking of ways to create and build something, not wondering how to survive. And sometimes that seems to me the definition of fortunate.
When You’ve Got So Much to Say, It’s Called Gratitude
So, I’m grateful to have the life I have. Because life is hard. Actually, I read that last sentence and I can thankfully say that I have no real clue what that really means, at least not from any personal experience. I’d like to chalk it up to the country in which I was born, but the fortunate reside all over. I’d like to say I deserve good fortune because I’ve worked hard, working at this job or that one and I’ve earned my place; or because I’ve obtained an education or because I’ve made good decisions and I’ve saved or I’ve sacrificed – all of which may or may not be true. But the reality is that the only real difference between that kid up there and me, is that I got lucky. And I have no illusions, I had nothing to do with that. That type of fortune is humbling. It makes the rest of it seem like privilege. So, I’ll open some wine and raise a glass to our Day of Giving Some Thanks. ‘Cuz here’s to being lucky, and privileged, and damn thankful for it.