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For What Am I Thankful?

For what am I thankful? I have asked myself that question hundreds of times in my life. In the past, I've thanked people for helping me in all sorts of ways: some lended me a hand with physical labor, some lended me their ear when I needed to vent my frustrations, and some provided me professional services such as legal or tax advice and estate planning. To all of those who provided me aid of one kind or another, I tried to make sure they knew I appreciated them by telling them thank you in person. I did not thank for the act itself; but I thanked them for being there when I needed them. Every day I try to say thank you to someone, somewhere, for something. I believe all of us recite “thank you” an infinite number of times in both our individual and collective lifetimes.

For what am I thankful? Many years ago, the mother of my children and I were going through hard times in our marriage. She told me that she needed time alone to think and reflect about our future. She decided to take a vacation with our children and go to Ohio to visit her parents. I thought that would be a great way for her to get some space. It was near the end of the summer and school was starting in two weeks. Two days after she had arrived in Ohio, she called me on a Wednesday night. She told me that she would be returning home without our children unless I agreed to move out of our home. She said she would be leaving them in Ohio with her parents, so she could just focus on getting a divorce. She related that she had enrolled them in school using her parent's address. It should go without saying that I was intensely shocked, since I had no idea that she was capable of engaging in such a disturbing act of extortion. That was a night I will never forget.

Without boring my readers with the details of the courtroom drama that ensued, let me simply say that her plans backfired on her, and a judge ordered her to return the kids home. He also kept me in the home and said that he didn't care if she returned or not. I thought it was a strange way to start a divorce, until I heard from countless others who had tales of their own divorces. I realized that nothing is ever as it seems. When my daughter and son returned home, I had a moment of pure joy in my heart. I was not thankful, I was happy. Some people may believe that I should have been thankful. However, in my worldview, the entire situation was disturbing and it remained so for four years until a new normal was established. There is nothing thankful about a divorce being contentious and bitter, when it could have been amicable, and much calmer.

For what am I thankful? When I was a boy growing up in the inner city of Detroit, I attended Francis E. Willard Elementary School located on Hamilton Avenue, one city block from my home on Davison Avenue. One late fall afternoon, I walked to school to attend choir practice. As I walked down the street, a street I had safely walked hundreds of times prior, a large black man walked towards me. He said, "Hello.” as he passed me. I reciprocated with a friendly, "Hi." and kept walking. I felt a tap on my shoulder just as he left my peripheral sight, so I turned to see who was tapping me. Just as I turned my neck, I felt a heavy blow to my left lower jaw. I fell limp to the ground, unconscious. I don't know how long I laid there before a woman, a passerby in a car, saw me and rushed to my aid. I awoke after she gently tapped my check saying, "Are you okay little boy?" I got up and told her that I wanted to go home. She asked me where I lived, and then she drove me to my house. She got out of her car, ushered me to the side door, and then waited for my grandmother to come and escort me in. She told my grandmother that she saw me on the ground unconscious. My grandmother cried initially, then she looked at me and asked me if I was okay. I told her yes. She gave me a big hug. I felt secure, not thankful.

The next day, my grandmother walked me to school. She took me to the principal's office and explained my situation to him. He called the local police. When they arrived, they took me to the playground. I saw the man playing with several kids on the rusty old swing set. They went and arrested him. He saw me and shouted a few obscenities at me. I didn't feel fear. I was not thankful. I was happy to see him in handcuffs. Later I found out that he was a paranoid schizophrenic that escaped from a psychiatric facility close by, and that the police had been looking for him. I remember thinking that he needed to be somewhere other than on my street, anywhere other than my street. I was not thankful; I was safe.

For what am I thankful? I am thankful that I have been able to endure so many hardships in my life and still have a sense that the world is amazing. I have lived in foster homes, and I have lived in poverty, although I didn't know I was poor. Most of my relatives have died. I have buried the two people that I loved most deeply, with all of my heart: my grandmother and Lisa. I was among First Responders at the Pentagon when the hijacked plane destroyed the Navy's administrative wing. I cried each night with all of the brave men and women who were there, searching and recovering body parts, after the greatest terrorist attack in America in my lifetime. I have seen many desperately suffering with chronic illness, pain and depression. I have watched lives wither into nothingness when they were once vibrant and carefree. I have seen harsh judgment by men and women who believe their sacred religious worldviews are the only ones that matter; I have heard them state loudly and righteously that all of those who differ from them are ignorant demons who will burn in Hell when they die. I have seen, I have seen.

I am thankful that those who have died have not destroyed my journey or ruined my exuberance for life. I am thankful that I still have opportunities to experience life in all of its dimensions and complexities. I am thankful that my personal worldview has expanded to allow me to transcend the daily sorrows of judgment and sacrifice and find beauty in all of Mother Nature's expressions. I am thankful that I have the honor to serve the infirm. I am thankful that I can create art in all of its forms and give new meaning to old ideas in the modern age. Not everything I am grateful for is happy or beautiful, some is rather disturbing and sublime; never the less, I am thankful for the all-of-it in its entirety. Moreover, I am thankful for the night that gives way to a new dawn and with it another opportunity to experience life.

For what are you Thankful?

Posted by Katie Reed at 4:40 PM
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