Thirty Thanks

Apparently, this year, a lot of people on Facebook are participating in a “Thirty Days of Thanksgiving” movement.  This strikes me as a fine idea.  It sure beats starting Christmas immediately after Halloween, as the stores would have us do.

I mean, I love Christmas, but I rebel at the notion that we should start the holiday before December 1.  Christmas is special because, for a week or two, most of us can manage to embrace a spirit of generosity and goodwill.  Not many of us could keep that up for two solid months.

I prefer the tradition of olden times, the traditional “twelve days of Christmas,” from December 25 to January 6.

Anyway, here’s my point:  If making November a month of gratitude can postpone Christmas until December 1, I’m all for it.  Though thirty days seems a bit long for ordinary, self-centered mortals to maintain an attitude of gratitude.

Since I didn’t get in on the “thirty days” thing at the beginning, I decided to see how long it would take me to come up with a list of thirty reasons to be grateful.  I was surprised that it only took about ten minutes.  

Here’s my list – which is strongly skewed toward people and situations which have contributed, in one way or another, to my education.

  1. I’m grateful I was born in 1951.  This meant that I would be in public school during the only twelve years when America had a clearly defined mission for its educational system – the years between Sputnik (1957) and our Moon landing (1969).  No one born before or after had anything like that advantage.
  2. I’m grateful to my father for teaching me the constellations of the summer sky...
  3. And to my parents for teaching me to read by the age of four...
  4. And to my little sister for being my first “student,” to whom I attempted to pass on my reading lessons.
  5. I’m grateful to the Enon community for youth baseball and football leagues...
  6. To a few great teachers who really challenged me...
  7. And to my parents, for constantly setting up opportunities for me to make discoveries on my own.
  8. I’m grateful for my first car, a 1954 Dodge...
  9. And to the first girl who had the charity to let me kiss her.
  10. I’m grateful to Camp Virginia, for important lessons in becoming a man...
  11. And to UVA for helping me become a thinking man.
  12. I’m grateful to great novelists – particularly Tolkien, Homer, and Larry McMurtry – for retelling the timeless legend of the individual quest...
  13. And to Joseph Campbell, for putting that quest into a universal perspective.
  14. I’m grateful to great historians whose books and lectures kept me from becoming trapped in the valley of the present...
  15. And for science fiction writers – especially Gene Roddenberry – for the same reason.
  16. I’m grateful to the fellow camper who lent me a copy of Archibald MacLeish’s J. B., which – at the tender age of seventeen – forever liberated me from religious faith...
  17. And to great men and women of faith, especially Reverend William Kelley and the new Pope, for reminding me that faith has its place in the world.
  18. I’m grateful to my mother bringing home all those Broadway cast albums, which my sister and I memorized and performed endlessly – and which ended up leading to the best gig of my acting career...
  19. And to my sister, who got me hooked on Shakespeare after many teachers had failed.
  20. I’m grateful for being able to practice law with Dad for three years – a time which enabled us to get to know and appreciate each other as men.
  21. I’m grateful to the Virginia Rugby Football Club, which got me through Law School...
  22. And to my first real girlfriend, who did the same.
  23. I’m grateful to several lovely women who had the good sense not to marry me...
  24. And to the best of them, who became my best friend instead.
  25. I’m grateful to my principal, Frank Poates, and the teachers and students at Midlothian High School, for the most meaningful years of my life – so far...
  26. And to Betsy Tucker, whose offer of my first adult role in a play gave meaning to my otherwise wasted years of grad school....
  27. And to all the other directors who, at critical moments, offered me roles I did not think I was ready to tackle.
  28. I’m grateful to the great film-makers, whose movies helped shaped my understanding of life...
  29. And to Mr. Shakespeare, whose Complete Works are the closest thing I have to scripture.
  30. Finally, I’m grateful to Russell Baker, whose brilliant essay, “Why Being Serious is Hard” has always been the gold standard against which everything I write is measured – always, so far, coming short.

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