In 1998 I wrote a Thanksgiving column for the Denton Record-Chronicle. That column has stayed near me in my office to remind me to be thankful as I seem to lose sight, at times, of my blessings.
This morning, however, I looked at it with new eyes. My life has changed in myriad ways in 20 years. Sure, I’m older and I’ve watched the world transform in ways I could only imagine. My children call the noises I make when I get up and down from a chair "old people noises." I call those crackling noises God’s gift of a longer life.
Twenty years ago, the world was much more innocent and naïve and so was I. There was nothing really wrong with the thoughts I offered in that old Thanksgiving column. My words were sincere. I have so much more to be thankful for now.
Not long ago my husband and I went to a popular restaurant and sitting next to us was a family of four. We thought the father, mother, and two children were offering the longest prayer ever before the meal arrived because their heads were bowed. Out of reverence we bowed our heads. But yours truly peeked and kicked my husband after my stomach growled for the third time.
Turns out they were all staring at their phones. They didn't speak to each other before or after the meal was delivered. Technology took precedence over family. Ouch.
I understand the dilemma over technology and how it has changed our world. I’ve been in a career that required my iPhone to be by my side 24 hours a day. It’s hard to get away from work now that we have technology — unless we turn our phones off and resist the urge to peek at them. Unless we turn off technology, we miss moments with family and friends, not to mention our beautiful world. And at times, we miss our neighbors and friends, who need our undivided attention.
My pastor says: “Methods change but principles never do.”
He is so right. We can't live with integrity unless we decide to live a non-selfish, caring existence. Sometimes, that means putting your phone down and looking around you.
Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. In the story, a man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed, beaten and bleeding. Two prestigious men passed by the poor soul and went on their way to church, leaving him to die.
But a good man crossed the road, went out of his way to help the wounded man, bandaged him and put him on his own donkey. The man took the wounded man to an inn to heal, gave the innkeeper two days wages and said when he returned he would pay what else he owed him. The good man didn’t ask the wounded man any probing questions. He saw him as a suffering soul who needed help.
I see the Good Samaritan in the way people came together after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The parable also reminds me of the goodness in people after the horror of the Boston Marathon, and after children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary school were gunned down. I saw it again when the people of Orlando responded to the innocent people who were killed in Florida. I certainly see its example most recently in Las Vegas. There are other tragedies, but these stand out.
Lately, we have seen natural disasters along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, and in California. People are hurting and good people cross the road (or the water, in some cases) deliver food, clothing or bring them to safety.
Some Good Samaritans have even stepped between danger and strangers, to shield them from carnage. In those horrible moments, the heroes I speak of never asked those they protected questions about race, creed or birthplace. They were not there to judge.
This Thanksgiving, wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate our heroes and our loved ones instead of complaining about the evil in our world?
Let’s hold dear our military families, and those who mourn those lost in combat and service. Let’s also remember to invite those who are grieving into our holiday celebrations.
As parents, let’s listen to our children. They have important and sweet words to say. Children, please listen to your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older friends. You will cherish their words someday.
While some of my 1998 column may have changed, this part has not. Since I’m older, please humor me and allow me to repeat myself. Here goes:
While some may disagree, I’m convinced that Thanksgiving is not an annual filling of an empty stomach, but daily remembering all God’s gifts, which fill empty hearts 365 days out of the year. And, just as warm food is good for the body, a thankful heart is good for the soul.
It's easy to get lost in the little screens all around us. But if we unplug a little and look around, we can be more grateful each day. If we give the phones a rest, we might even give the world around us a reason for thanks in return.
PAM RAINEY is a longtime Denton resident and a real estate agent who has helped many seniors make decisions about living arrangements. You can reach her with suggestions at email@example.com or 940-293-3117.
FEATURED IMAGE: Thanksgiving cornucopia filled with autumn fruits and vegetables spread out. DMN file photo.