A Very Special Thanksgiving Weekend

By Robert Kirwan

This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving, a time of the year that has always been special to me. Usually I find myself working out in the yard putting things away for the winter with plenty of time to think about life in general. This is going to be a very special Thanksgiving for many of us because things don’t appear to be going very well for a lot of people right now.

The global recession has affected just about every aspect of society. The labour dispute between Vale Inco and the USW is making the recession even worse and could lead to serious financial distress for many families in the area. In particular, the strike which directly involves over 3000 unionized employees has resulted in thousands of additional layoffs and workforce reductions among the hundreds of mining service companies and retail outlets in the region. It is not a pretty picture locally this year, so a lot of us may not think there is much to be thankful for.
Perhaps this weekend is coming at a good time. We all need to stop for a moment and take a good look at our own situation to see if it really is as bad as it looks. Admittedly, we may have to make some serious adjustments in our way of life for a while, but when it is all over maybe our priorities will have shifted and we will emerge from these difficult times with a new perspective on life.

Let me share a story with you about an old man who showed up at the back door of the house rented by a couple of college students. This will give you a good example of perspective. As the students cracked open the door, they saw his that his eyes were glassy and his face unshaven. He said hello to them and offered to sell them some apples and oranges he was carrying in an old basket. Although they had all the fruit they needed already, the students made a purchase, mostly because they felt pity for the old man and partly because they were afraid of him.

The visits became more regular. The students began to realize the glaze on his eyes was the result of cataracts, not alcohol. They became accustomed to sound of his shuffling feet every morning. Sometimes he wore mismatched shoes. He would often pull out a harmonica and begin playing sad, gospel tunes in the middle of conversations with the students.

The students realized that the old man didn’t have many friends. Perhaps they were the only people who paid any attention to him. He showed them the old shack where he lived and continued to sell apples and oranges to the students almost every single day.

On one visit he said to the students, “What a day! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.”

The students celebrated with him, not letting on that it was they who had purchased the shoes and clothes and placed them on the porch as a gift. They wanted to remain anonymous.

“We’re really glad for you,” they exclaimed.

Then the old man added, “You know what’s even more wonderful? Just yesterday I met some people who could really use them.”

The old man taught the students something very important about life that day. No matter how little you have or how little you know, you still have something you can do for both yourself and for others. The old man enjoyed the life he was living and was grateful for the shoes, clothing and friendships he had with others. He was thankful for the opportunity to share his good fortune with someone less fortunate than himself.

This weekend I am going to spend a few moments in quiet reflection about what is truly important to me. I extend an invitation to all of my readers to do the same. Make a list of all the things in your life that you could live without. Be honest and true to your self. For example, if, for some reason, you were taken off the face of the earth today, what would you miss the most?
We have all accumulated many possessions over the years, but when all is said and done, I think you will discover that what you would miss the most are not things at all. You will miss the people in your life and the loving relationships you developed most of all. The expensive cars, clothes and houses will mean nothing when you look back on your life. What you will miss the most are your loved ones. The people who truly care about you and the people with whom you look forward to sharing your precious moments on this earth.

And so as we head into this very special Thanksgiving Weekend, let’s all take a little bit of time to look at the things in our life that others would consider valuable but for which we may have long taken for granted. Let’s also spend some time looking closely at the people around us and see what “makes their life so rich”. Things will get better for everyone before long. The economy will improve. The labour dispute will end. And people will be back at work. I don’t think life will ever return to the same as it was before all of the troubles started, but that too may be a good thing.
Above all, let’s all show appreciation for the parts of our life that we would miss the most if they were taken away from us. And let’s tell the people who are closest to us just how much we appreciate their love.

Have a good week!