Opinion: Thanksgiving hopes are a constant across time

A LOOK BACK AT THOUGHTS FROM LONG-AGO HOLIDAY

Editor’s note: This column appeared on the combined Opinion pages of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 23, 1972.

Twenty years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving column about how the good Lord treats us better than most of us really deserve, and we ought to be thankful for his loving kindness. The other day it came along in the mails, a yellowed clipping from a reader who suggested that it might serve as well to express one man’s sense of thankfulness after two decades had passed. So here goes:

Some days everybody looks mad. You walk down the street and all the people you meet are scowling, wrapped in their own dark thoughts. Then you catch a glimpse of yourself in a plate glass window as you pass, and you, to your horror, are scowling too, your face drawn up in that look of harassment, of worry, of quiet desperation that seems to be the brand that most of us bear. The trouble is, I think, that we allow ourselves to become beset by all manner of strange forebodings of evils that will probably never come. We let too many little things vex us and we never stop to think of the good things that the Lord has bestowed upon us.

And that, I think, is the great virtue of the Thanksgiving observance. It is a good thing, if for only one day, to pause and count our blessings, to dwell on what’s right with our lives, and with the world, instead of what is wrong. There are a multitude of these good things, if only we should take time to winnow them out, to count and fondle them, like precious jewels. For my part, for instance, I am thankful first of all that in the great gamble of genetics I turned out to be what I am.

I am thankful also that whenever my ancestor first landed on these shores he turned South, instead of North. I do not envy my friends of Maine and Vermont when February comes and the winds are howling. But I am also thankful he didn’t go too far South, for it gets awful hot in Florida in the summer time. I am thankful that my folks did not have a lot of money, for I am a lazy man by nature, and if I hadn’t had to do it, or not eat, I would have never have hit a lick of work in my life. I am thankful that in the great lottery of marriage, I drew one who with a wryly smiling tolerance puts up with my shortcomings. I am grateful also that the Good Lord saw fit to bestow upon us four young. I do not see how I could have managed to get along with any less, for each is a great joy to me. But I also don’t see how I could have found use for any more.

I am thankful that I went into the business I’m in, instead of carrying out my earlier ambition to be a dairy farmer, for a newspaperman can find excuses for prowling around in a lot of far-off corners of the world, poking his nose into things that are none of his business, but which he finds fascinating. A dairy farmer has to stay at home.

And above all, I am thankful that I was born in the time I was, and that my life spans the decades from the horse and buggy to the jet transport plane. I am thankful that I was alive to see the birth of the atomic bomb. I hope I will be allowed to stick around long enough to see whether or not atomic fission is going to open up a whole new vista of human achievement, a world cleaner, fairer and richer than any life we’ve ever known before -- or whether it’s going finally to destroy the world entirely.

I am thankful that I saw the birth of the miracle of television and I am often even more thankful that I don’t have to look at it. I am thankful that I saw the dawn of the age of plastics, of fibres made of the elements of the air and of the earth. I am thankful that my dog Shim did not turn out to be what he was supposed to be, a purebred, highstrung and probably irritable, but a mixed-breed mutt with a loving heart and affectionate disposition.

I am thankful for many things both great and small. But mainly I am thankful that, for all the idiocy that usually besets us, we as a nation have at least got sense enough to set aside one day in which to express to the Lord who gave them, our gratitude for His blessings. Taking it all in all, He’s treated us better than we deserve.