Thanksgiving is not about turkey, no matter how crackling the skin or luscious the gravy.
It’s not about football, whether your team is playing or not.
It’s not even about family, regardless of how very Norman Rockwell your dinner table is.
It isn’t hard to figure out what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s right there in the name. It is, at its heart, about giving thanks for what you have.
For some people, that’s hard.
Every day, it seems like we are surrounded by people who are unhappy about something. Social media bombards us with dissatisfaction, stories of “you’ll never believe what happened to me today!”
We all know what that’s like. Everyone has bad days. Everyone has things that could be better, that aren’t quite perfect, that just beat you down on a daily basis. Work is tedious, family makes you worry, bills breed anxiety, and does this mole look weird to you?
But Thanksgiving helps us take a look at our lives and think about not what’s missing, but what is there.
It is a time for us to look around our table and see the faces of people we love, and not focus on the chairs that aren’t filled. We can enjoy Mom’s stuffing and be glad that we have food to put on our plates. We can argue about politics with that family member who believes exactly the opposite of everything we hold dear, and appreciate that we have freedom of diverse ideas and access to the information to inform our minds.
On Thanksgiving, this can be easy. OK, maybe not easy, but we try and we are rewarded with pie.
What is harder is embracing an attitude of appreciation and gratitude 52 weeks a year.
At the Centre Daily Times, it’s an attitude we want to encourage; we hope to make Thanksgiving last all year via our Thankful Thursdays. Fridays to Wednesdays, our opinion page might bring you criticisms of local leaders, Harrisburg’s budget, Washington gridlock, the general state of the Kardashians or even what we are serving up (or not) in print or online.
But on Thursdays, we will make an effort to find letters to the editor, opinion pieces and editorials that focus not on what needs to change, but what is going right in the world.
We’ll also aim to deliver more upbeat stories to the front page — such as Frank Ready’s inspiring story today about Phil Ponsolle and Joe Varano.
We also owe thanks to Janis Nickerson, of State College, who wrote to us Nov. 12 to report a brush with kindness. She was shopping when the lights went out at Barnes & Noble. She told us how staff did their best to deal with the problems while still serving customers. (Try to keep in mind how hard retail can be when you are doing your shopping this holiday season.) But when doing that meant that a young service member might not get his purchase, an employee showed her gratitude by giving him the items without a thought.
Nickerson was grateful, not because she benefited from the kind gesture, but because she was able to observe it.
Hopefully, Thankful Thursdays can become that kind of warm feeling for us all, a way to bear witness on a weekly basis to the idea that there are good things out there worth documenting. If you have tips and story ideas about people, places and things that make you grateful, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a letter to the editor at email@example.com.
Happy Thanksgiving, Centre County. Enjoy the turkey, the football and your family. But while you’re at it, please know that we are grateful for you.
Random act of kindness
While I was shopping in Barnes & Noble in State College this afternoon (Nov. 12), the power suddenly went out and we were all left in semi darkness. The employees scrambled to find alternative methods to enable everyone to make their purchases and to be able to leave the store. They were able to hold our intended purchases by placing our names and phone numbers on them and holding them behind the counter. After trying calculators and considering other methods, holding the items seemed to be the only option. As I waited to give them my information, I noticed a young serviceman, dressed in fatigues who was patiently waiting for the return of the power so that he could purchase his books. When the sales associate offered to hold them for him, he explained that he couldn’t come back because he was headed to his military assignment. The sales associate paused and then handed him his books.
I heard him say, “I can’t pay for them!” She responded, without hesitation, and said, “Thank you for your service — these are on me!”
The young man was surprised, yet very pleased.
I was honored to get to witness such a genuine, spontaneous and generous gesture. What a terrific representative of Barnes & Noble, but more importantly what a fine young woman.
Janis Nickerson, State College