Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Let me be perfectly straightforward. We should all be thankful for every day we enjoy. Even the most hapless individual trying to eke out a living in an inhospitable world should give shouts of praise for life and all of its possibilities. As challenging as life can be, there is always a positive outcome just around the corner. Some lessons I've learned through the years are telling. Bill Gates started Microsoft during a recession. Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 66 with no income aside from the $105 he received from Social Security. James Cash Penney suffered financial ruin at the onset of the Great Depression, but kept his empire alive by borrowing from his life insurance policy. There is always potential in every human being that he or she will do better tomorrow and so we should all gives thanks for the many blessings we have today. To me Thanksgiving Day is the quintessential American holiday. It speaks volumes about our dependence upon one another and that we should always put our best foot forward. The story told to grade schoolers of the first meeting of the plucky Pilgrims and the dimwitted Wampanoags who befriended them is full of untruths and misleading stereotypes. For those of us who know the true story of Squanto and the historical facts of the very first Thanksgiving, there is little doubt that the Pilgrims would likely have perished had they not had substantial help from the Native Americans living near Plymouth Rock. Nevertheless, it is easy to dismiss these spun tales as pure propaganda and understand the reasons these stories were concocted in the first place. It was to make the earliest American settlers seem somehow superior to the Native Americans and justify the horrible way the Europeans treated their friends. Those Wampanoags that survived the pestilence brought upon them in the form of the common cold or flu to which they had no immunity were almost all wiped out by wars waged upon them by their Pilgrim brothers a few years later. From such humble beginnings the holiday of Thanksgiving evolved into what is today the most American of holidays. It is a day for families to gather and to revel in the freedoms we all enjoy as American citizens. It is a spiritual holiday, but that doesn't mean it is specifically religious. It is a patriotic holiday, but it is best expressed through family. I've always loved the holiday for what it offers: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, an opportunity to dine out or join with family at a central location and the jumping off point for the upcoming holiday season. As a kid, I loved the Macy's TV spectacular and a few years ago I even managed to go up to New York to view it up close and personal. It was so bitterly cold outside and so crowded that I abandoned my perch on Broadway and ran inside to catch the rest of the parade on the small TV screen in the cramped hotel room there. For this we paid a high premium. I thought to myself that I could have just as easily caught the parade on the small screen back home and saved a significant bill in the process. Despite my having seen many Mardi Gras parades here in New Orleans, I will admit the Macy's parade with its many colorful and gargantuan balloons is very special. There's nothing quite like watching these mammoth lighter-than-air figures floating inside massive canyons of glass and steel. The spectators are very composed and enjoy themselves with a great more comportment than we do down here. But perhaps I am jaded. These New Yorkers just don't get it. I stood on a crowded sidewalk freezing my lagniappe off and didn't catch one bead, cup, Frisbee or doubloon. Some parade! In any event I hope you all enjoy the grandest of holidays and keep the spirit of the day in your hearts.

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