I love holidays, so you would think I'd keep up with their timing better than I do. Moments ago I was deep into the thinking and writing process of another column when it dawned on me that today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. And while my editor gives me freedom to write about anything I decide with no required theme, I want to switch gears and focus on Thanksgiving. Because now that I think about it, I feel a palpable need for the exercise of giving thanks.
My thankful muscles are untoned, not used as much lately as the ones for fear, discontent, disappointment. I'm not proud of that. There's the personal stuff--health issues, confronting my own impotence at solving problems for people I love, the fact I hate cold and early darkness, blah, blah, blah--and then there's the non-personal that I tend to take personally.
The election. Book banning. Slaps in the face to minority senators. More college students shot. My thankful muscles can get paralyzed by all of that.
My brother, ever the irritant, knows. After an impromptu walk and talk the other night, he sent me this message this morning. It is a quote from Georgia Tech coach Lewis Caralla: "Everybody's sore. Everybody's tired. Everybody has an excuse. Don't be everybody."
I am thankful for a brother who can meet me on the path between our houses and help me snap out of it. I am thankful for his wife, who fusses over my blood pressure and bullies me into washing my hair when it has been too many days. I am thankful for their kids and that I get a front-row seat for their lives: Madeline finding her way through freshman year at UCA, Sophia letting me co-parent her dog, Hunter channeling the King of Pop.
I am thankful for my parents. I am so lucky to have them right here through the woods, callable at a moment's notice for a kid taxi, cups of sugar, advice. I love to drink their Folgers. I love that they cook dinner every Sunday and gather us together around their huge table. I am so thankful for how much they have always loved me and love me still and that there has never been one moment in my life that I have ever wondered whether they might prefer a nicer, smarter, prettier, stronger, funnier, different, better daughter, even if I would often prefer to be those things.
I am thankful for my husband and the life we have built together. I am thankful for my kids and the unspeakable joy each one brings to my life. I am thankful they are safe and healthy and have opportunities to grow intellectually, socially, and spiritually in public schools, both K-12 and institutions of Higher Ed. I am thankful for the teachers and other heroes who have helped me raise them, who have come alongside us and partnered in their learning how to be in the world and live successful lives.
I am thankful for my friends. For those who are loyal through changing seasons. For those who challenge me, tell me no, make me think. For those who walk beside me at any pace. For those who listen and pray with me and for me. For those who cheer me on.
I am thankful for my home. For clean water and healthy food. I am thankful for a fireplace, a roof that doesn't leak, a strong foundation. I'm thankful for my dogs, that they are just happy to be near me; that they are warm and soft and content. I am thankful for the worn-out furniture my family snuggles on, for popcorn, and the Internet that brings us movies. My grand piano. Windows that look out on a river and mountains and a wide, wonderful world.
I am thankful I was born in America. I am thankful I get to be alive in this place. That wild muscadines and passion flowers and honeysuckle grow along my dirt driveway. That I can look up at night and there's only sky--no extra light. I am thankful my eyes can see stars, and my ears hear coyotes' songs.
I am thankful I can taste chocolate and cheese dip and strawberries, and smell the baking of sourdough bread. I am thankful I can knead that sourdough with the same hands that dig dirt and pick blackberries and wildflowers. I am thankful for cows and fish and chickens. Deer, mountain lions, bears, and eagles. I am thankful I am from a small town and that I got to move back home to raise my family. I am thankful for the hope that anchors my soul.
I am thankful for work I love. Thankful I get to teach, though I'm not well enough to do so right now, which makes me thankful for sick-leave and security. I'm thankful I can write this column, and research and write and advocate through Arkansas Strong about things that matter. I am thankful I get to wake up and do something that aims to make the world a better place. I am so thankful I get to connect with others who share that aim; that our connection and collaborative work make a difference. I am thankful for work that stretches me.
I am endlessly thankful for you, reader. If you would like to exercise your grateful muscles with me I would love to share in your Thanksgiving. Shoot me a line or more about what you are thankful for.
Gwen Ford Faulkenberry is an English teacher and editorial director of the non-partisan group Arkansas Strong. (http://arstrong.org) Email her at email@example.com.