Reflecting on Good Fortune

Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday. Even as a child, while I loved the sweets of Halloween and Easter, and the gifts of Christmas, Thanksgiving was the holiday that resonated more deeply with me.

Some of that appeal was fairly straight-forward: a four-day weekend focused on relaxation and good food, without the stress and hassle of gift-giving, and usually with fairly decent weather to enjoy. It was a final blanket of comfort to be enjoyed before the harshness and bleakness of winter truly set in. In that regard, there was also a bit of melancholy about Thanksgiving: living in the Northeastern US it would not get better than this for quite a while – it would be almost six more months before the weather truly improved. Even Spring, when it first arrives, is poor, damp, and unpleasant in comparison, far more promise than reality; the appeal of Spring is how it will be after rather than during. Thanksgiving was the opposite: it was a celebration of the goodness of the present time, and of the success of the past, with a temporary blindness towards the future.

In more modern times, of course, that focus has shifted: Thanksgiving Day isn’t even over before many of us are rushing off to a future of crowds, chaos, and consumption. Black Friday is a boon for the economy but it’s equally a blight on everything that Thanksgiving should represent: enjoying what we have and being thankful for our good fortune in having it.

It’s sad on many levels: we are so oblivious to what we have and so focused on what we want next that we need to set aside a day to be reminded of how lucky we are, rather than having a constant awareness of it. And we only want to set aside just one day – we’re all busy people, and it doesn’t pay to be too grateful, after all. Then we even eat into that tiny sliver of time (one-quarter of one percent of the year) with an immediate and vicious return to the pursuit of the next thing.

In an effort to be more mindful of my good fortune, I want to publicly express my gratitude for so many things in my life (in no particular order):

I’m grateful for my health. It’s usually the part of our lives we most take for granted right up until it’s gone, and then it’s the part that we most desperately miss. I’ve seen, particularly of late, how quickly and surprisingly someone’s health can change, and how little control they may have over it. Good health is a blessing, and not something to be taken for granted.

I’m grateful for my home. I know how it is to not like where you’re living, and I know how it is lose your home. I like where I’m living now better than anywhere I’ve ever lived, and even more than I thought I would before we moved here. Our new house is better and nicer than any we’ve had before, and just feels right. This isn’t somewhere I’m just living – this is my home.

I’m grateful for my career. I fell into the IT/computing industry after having no initial interest or background, and it turned into a life far better than I had imagined. In IT I found something I truly enjoyed, that I’m good at, and at which I’ve been very successful. In a different part of the world, a different time, or a slightly different set of circumstances, my life would have been a completely different, and poorer, experience.

I’m grateful for my family and friends. When bad things have happened over the years, it’s been overwhelming to see the support they’ve provided, often without even being asked. They say that reality is that which doesn’t go away even when you stop believing in it, but in many ways I think that’s just as apropos of family – and friends are just a subset of family.

I’m grateful for my wife. Despite the statistics, we’ve been together through thick and thin, for better and for worse, for over twenty years, and are happier together now than we were at the beginning. She’s supported me always and without hesitation, and most importantly has pushed me whenever I needed it – even, especially, when I didn’t want it – and she’s always been right to do so. Anything I’ve accomplished in my life is a direct result of her unwavering support and persistence.

So to my wife, my friends, my family, and to my colleagues both past and present – thank you.


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