I sit here in bed at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning, awakened by the familiar sound of the weekday alarm on my iPhone. However, this is no ordinary weekday, and the alarm was not set for me. The alarm signaled the start of Thanksgiving Day, when my wife would drag herself, after just four hours of sleep, to the kitchen to help her mother make the final preparations for the feast around which this entire day orbits.
While I simply could have turned off the alarm and fallen back to sleep once my wife quietly stepped out of our bedroom, the early morning effort of these two women made me think. My mother-in-law, for as long as I’ve known her, has never wavered in her commitment to her family. Her daughter — my wife — has followed in these steadfast footsteps. Waking up long before the sun to prepare a Thanksgiving feast may not seem extraordinary, unless viewed in the context of this continuum of family dedication. I am thankful that nearly twenty years ago, I was accepted — no, better yet, invited — to become a part of this family.
If being a part of this family was the extent of my life’s fortune, I would have little right to complain of my lot. But as my mind wandered through each intersecting circle of my life, it became clear that my gratitude should not end at the edges of my home and family.
Over the course of this year, I have seen neighbors lose their homes to foreclosure. Yet I still have a roof (albiet leaky) over my head. I have been shocked as very talented and dedicated people unexpectedly lose their jobs. Yet, my paycheck reliably shows up each month. I have seen friends torn by the pressure of living up to family expectations. Yet, I was born to a family that accepts and supports me for who I am. I have witnessed friends suffer through the end of long-term relationships. Yet, I wake up each day with my life’s partner by my side. I have felt loneliness in the spirit of friends and strangers. Yet, my days are filled with the companionship and compassion of friends.
As Thanksgiving dawn raises a sleepy eye and the aroma of our impending feast permeates the house, I am overwhelmed by a solitary emotion. I am thankful.