Some of you will be reading these words before, some during and several after Thanksgiving Day (like the old British Empire, the sun never sets on this column.) So, we need to set some ground rules: Let’s remember to express our thanks on days other than when our mouths are stuffed with turkey parts.
The problem is that we usually don’t do so on the other 364 days a year (OK, 365 on a leap year. Some of you can be so picky) because we are too busy complaining about the weather, politics, our aches and pains, robocalls, inconsiderate drivers and/or the price of something or other.
I am not inclined to turn this into a “I am thankful for” column because I suspect I won’t be the only one to do so this week. If anyone does, however, it won’t come within light years of the late Furman Bisher, the legendary Atlanta sports editor, for whom Thanksgiving columns were a hallowed tradition and who may be the best writer to ever inhabit the planet. Nobody else comes close. He once wrote that he was from so far back in the country, he thought Duncan Hines was a swimming term. (Think about it.)
Although I said I would eschew the “I am thankful for” theme, I must say that I am thankful for having had Furman Bisher as a friend. We spent some priceless evenings with him and his lovely wife, Lynda, in their St. Simons home watching the sun set over the marshes of Glynn. A crackling fire in the fireplace didn’t hurt.
This is a good time of year for reflection and gratitude, something I need to do more of. We have kept the hospitals busy this year and they have sent us home in better condition than when we arrived. I never thought much about health insurance, other than I was fortunate to work for a company that provided good coverage. Today, I don’t know what we would have done without it. I can’t imagine anything worse than having a serious medical condition and no way to pay the cost of treatment.
Should we care? Absolutely. The English poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” No one can live in isolation. We all need the help of others in order to survive in this world and, in turn, we need to help others. That was true when Donne penned those words some 400 years ago and it is true in today’s tweet-tweet world. Anyone who tells you they are self-made is blowing smoke.
We have all had wise people pass through our lives. Hopefully, we have been smart enough to listen and learn and then pass that knowledge along to others. As one wise man once told me, we should leave this world in better shape than we found it. Otherwise, we have just wasted time and space.
We don’t have to discover a cure for cancer or invent the latest technological gadget or bring peace on earth (although that would be nice). We can simply treat people the way we would like to be treated. How hard is that?
My bride has this wonderful habit of calling people by the name appearing on their badge in the stores where she shops. A small thing maybe, but it seems to brighten the day of those on the receiving end and no doubt makes them feel a little better, even for a moment.
It works in reverse. A lot of people brighten our lives, as well. There is Olivia, the greatest retail clerk in the history of the world, who makes us feel like the most important customers to ever enter our local pharmacy. There is Evelyn, who has our dry cleaning ready to pick up before I have parked the car. There is April, who delivers our mail daily and finds time to check on our well-being. There is Regina, who cuts my hair exactly the way I like it every time (no mean feat). There are those who collect our trash, cut our grass and deliver our newspaper. I am grateful for them, one and all.
I am grateful for you, too, and for the editors who allow us to have this weekly conversation. I am sure we will find something on which to disagree in the future. But on this day, let us not forget that all-in-all, we have it pretty good. For that, we give thanks.
•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.