Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving here in Thailand; a day like every other day here.

Thailand does not celebrate or recognize the holiday.

However we do not need government sanctioning of the day to contemplate, give thanks, and to rejoice for all that is good in our life.

Yes today is a day like any other day here in Isaan - for me.  Everyday I contemplate, give thanks, and rejoice for all that is good in my life.  But it is on American Thanksgiving that I celebrate, share, and publicize it with people other than my wife.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays even more so than Christmas and definitely more so than New Years - specifically New Year's Eve.

Christmas carries too much emotional baggage to truly be appreciated.  After perhaps spending more money than you should have on gifts for your family, if you are fortunate you only get to witness their suppressed disappointment at the results of your efforts.  If you are less fortunate, you are told what they really wanted or asked when along with where they can exchange the gift.  You are also often put into the same situation of having to express gratitude and appreciation for receiving things that you neither wanted or needed all the while feeling guilty in recognition of the donor's efforts and generosity.

However, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather together to feast and celebrate the blessings of the past year.  I believe that I am an optimist so a day of rejoicing and celebrating the good in life is not difficult.  Some years are not as bountiful as others.  Some years are more challenging than others.  However Thanksgiving day is a day to be thankful for what we have and not what we wished that we had or to focus on what we do not have.  If for no other reason, being alive is reason to give thanks on Thanksgiving.  With life there is hope; hope for a better tomorrow or some day after.

This Thanksgiving I am am thankful for so many things that I have.  As much as I am thankful for what I have, I am thankful for the many blessings that I had and some that I no longer can enjoy.

As much as what we have today brings us joy and contentment, it was yesterday and our past that have brought us to today.  It our past that prepared us for today and for the days to come.

Today, as for all days, I am thankful for the love, experiences, and guidance that I have received from family and friends who are no longer in this world.  They have passed on and I can no longer enjoy their presence. They affected my life in ways that are impossible to quantify or for me to express into words.  Shared experiences with them taught me and assisted me in developing my personal values.  The memories of shared holidays, vacations, celebrations, and ordinary days with them remain both a comfort as well as inspiration to me.  The gift of family, companionship and friendship is reason enough to give thanks today as well as every day.

I am thankful for having been raised in a country and time where excellent quality free public education was available to everyone.  Going to school in Groton, Connecticut in the 1950s and into the late 1960s was a blessing.  I often think back to those school years and believe that there was a unique group of teachers back then.  As students we were challenged by our teachers to do more than our best.  A quality free education is a blessing to be thankful for.  Even today in many parts of the world, children do not have access to free quality education.

I am thankful for having been raised in a country where I was free to fail and much more importantly free to succeed to the extent that I, myself, determined.  My position and goals in life were not restricted by anyone or any institution.  My parent's education, occupation, economic, or social status did not limit my prospects.  Today this is not true even in some Western countries.

I am most thankful for the way that my parents raised me.  Too often today, people blame their problems on their parents.  They blame their current behavior on their parents.  Blaming their parents, to them. absolves them of their individual responsibility and accountability for their own actions.  I know that my parents did their very best in raising their family based upon what they knew and could at the time.  Should we expect any less or demand anything more? I suspect that most parents do the same.

I was taught manners. Manners and etiquette allow individuals to function, interact and thrive in a society with minimal conflict.  Manners and etiquette help to define our value and standing as an individual and to society.  The manners and etiquette that I learned as a child have allowed me to integrate into different cultures easily where I have worked and lived.  While these may not be a blessing, they are things that I am thankful for.

I was taught that I was not special.  I am not certain how well I learned that lesson.  I suspect that most people have not completely learned that lesson well.  However I learned to not expect or demand special privileges or preferential treatment.  I expect to treated the same as any other person.  An off shoot of this lesson that I was taught throughout my youth was the realization that as an individual I had certain responsibilities to the group.  I have the responsibility to not demand that the group conform solely to appease my wishes, practices, or beliefs.  I do not necessarily have to conform but that choice is mine to make and I should be prepared for and accept the consequences.

I was taught that I could have anything that I wanted; as long as I first had the money to pay for it. I was taught and more importantly demonstrated each day.  I was taught that anything worth having was worth working for.  I was also taught that I wanted something bad enough I would work for it.  If I was not willing to work for something, I did not need it.

Today I am also thankful for my families and friends that are part of my daily life.

Thank You - all of you.

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