FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Thanks and Giving

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by Dave Markwell

I am not a big fan of parades. To be clear, I don’t really like parades on TV. I like them in person. This is an interesting fact only because I am actually enjoying watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. For some strange reason, I am un-begrudgingly sitting on my Mom’s couch not wishing to change the channel. I’m sure there is some football action on someplace, but I am happy with the parade. This is a pretty drastic departure from my standard turkey day sentiment. Perhaps this is another step in my lingering evolution, I do not know. As a guy, I hope not. As a dad, husband and son, I hope so. The rest of my family is enjoying the parade, with the notable exception of my 12 year old son, who sarcastically comments on every entry. That’s my boy. But, my mom, wife and even my barfing daughter are enjoying each dance and song and maybe, because they are, I am too. I am happy because they are.

Thanksgiving is, by definition, about “giving thanks”. This is a wonderful and rather fortuitous idea. It is a great reminder. We all have much to be thankful for. Even under the challenging situations which many of us face, our lives are filled with hope, love and opportunity. We have friends and families and choices and chances to be better. We have fond memories and inspiring possibilities. We have dreams to live and a life to enjoy every day. I am thankful for all of this.

While I love the tradition and gravy of Thanksgiving Day, I also think it necessary to recognize our blessings more than once a year. While I certainly understand that a lot of “thanks” and “giving” happens throughout the rest of the year, it does not happen with the same sense of urgency or steep intent of true charity that exists during this holiday. Thanksgiving is a state of mind. Appreciating each day as a chance to help and serve feels damn good every day. I submit that trying a little harder to inject a little more of this into every regular, mundane, ordinary and seemingly forgettable day of the year will make them all better.

This is not a new idea. Self-help pundits tout this “attitude of gratitude” as the holy grail trail towards self-actualization. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it is not entirely false. While I enjoy many of the ideas about self-helpy stuff, a lot of it gives me gas. Sappy platitudes delivered by weepy-eyed, soft-spoken and soft-handed, middle-aged men do not appeal to me. I like it real. Self-improvement exists in the mud and struggle of daily life. It lives in the dirt. It is appreciating the dirt as something more. It is seeing the beauty in the imperfect elements of which most of life consists. Waiting for life to be un-messy before being happy is a sad recipe for a thin and short life of disappointment. Being happy in spite of circumstances is the key to a good, full and rich life. Living with true “thanksgiving” is this feeling and it can happen any day of the year.

Being grateful is important, but the “giving” component of “thanksgiving” is just as vital. “It is better to give than receive”. Whoever penned this was genius. I know not a truer truth. Being thankful is at the heart of giving. Giving is a beautiful obligation we have as receivers of all that we are thankful for. The capacity to give lives each and every day and it is powerful stuff.

Intentional and deliberate giving on a global scale would change the world. By giving, I speak of small, but collective, acts of goodness and niceness that simply brighten a day or a sidewalk. These acts are cumulative. If everyone took the opportunity to say something nice to the supermarket checker or picked up the root beer can on the sidewalk outside their neighbor’s house, the world would be better. And this would be good. Among your list of leftover eating this season, add this as food for thought…

Well, the parade is over and dinner has been over-eaten. I now sit watching “Christmas Vacation” happy that my daughter has stopped puking and my son has stopped playing his video game. My wife sits next to me, reading and laughing at the parts I think are stupid. My mom laughs, too, while eating some pumpkin pie. Outside, the sleety rain blows sideways as my dog, Diego, sits beneath the living room window on the covered porch chewing a turkey neck. He is happy, too. My life is here and it is good. It will be good tomorrow and the day after, as well. Gratefully, Thanksgiving does not come but once a year…Enjoy all of them!!!

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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