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Mitchell: Thanksgiving Is a Middle Child, but Deserves Attention


Confession: Much of what follows is recycled. But recycling is a good thing, isn’t it?

The thought being repeated is that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are a trifecta of holidays, all in a row. Bam, bam, bam.
Thanksgiving, like a middle child, can get lost in the shuffle.
Too, from a child’s perspective, there are other reasons to consider Thanksgiving less than a big deal. Halloween involves costumes, mystery and asking people you don’t know for candy. Christmas involves people you do know — plus an obese elf — lavishing you with presents.
How can Thanksgiving — with mushy stuffing, mushier casseroles and weird relatives as the main attractions — compete with that?
Besides, other than being known as a day for eating too much, Thanksgiving is the day before parents vanish in the predawn hours and come dragging home, either elated or angry, in time for a turkey sandwich and a nap.
But think about it: Thanksgiving is important even if less-respected.
As I write just about every year, nothing is more predictive of a happy life than whether one chooses to adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Make a mental list of people you know. Divide them into fault-finders and mirth-spreaders. Then look in the mirror and ask yourself — honestly — on which list people you know would place your name.
For most people, attitude is a choice.
It’s easy — so easy — to fall in with the crowd that meets in the break room at work and maintains a constant buzz about how much they hate their jobs, how the bosses are unfair, how the clients or customers are idiots and how they can’t wait to get out.
It’s easy — so easy — to get down about long waits, high prices, rude or indifferent service.
It’s easy — so easy — to be convinced that the world is headed for generations of poor leadership, that all other drivers are idiots, that your neighbors are the trashiest people ever born.
One alternative to avoiding those temptations is to become like Goober from Mayberry. Never see the down side of any situation. Grin all the time.
That’s not good, either.
There are problems.
There are issues that need to be addressed.
There is horror. There is grief. Sadly, that’s not a new thing.
For every hut the Pilgrims built, they dug seven graves.
Having an attitude of gratitude is not the same as becoming a Goober.
It’s merely an acceptance of life as a gift, an appreciation of the gift and an effort to make each and every day as good as it can be under the circumstances.
America lost poet Maya Angelou in 2014, but we got to keep her words. Here are some that say a lot:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’
“I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
“I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Thanksgiving has been marginalized in popular culture. It’s a uniquely American holiday, declared by a secular government but with significant religious underpinnings. It has become a day known for eating more than for fellowship, for shopping or preparing to shop more than for reflection.
But that’s OK.
Because if one day is the only day when a person is going to be thankful, it doesn’t mean much anyway.
Better to foster and maintain an attitude of gratitude day in and day out.
Better to be a blessing to others, even when they aren’t a blessing to you.

Charlie Mitchell mugshot 2014Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at cmitchell43@yahoo.com.

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