With the holidays quickly approaching, my schedule has become almost painfully full. Before I find myself completely bogged down in the hysteria of the next week, I wanted to touch briefly on the spirit of the upcoming holiday.
Thanksgiving means different things for different people. When I was a kid, it was an event–one filled with a slew of relatives, more food than any one family could possibly consume, and four hours of dishwashing. Looking back, I have a lot of fond memories: my grandmother offering unsolicited cooking advice my mother tried very hard to ignore, my brother torturing me with Star Wars…or The Empire Strikes Back (I’ve never been able to sit through those movies long enough to tell them apart). My aunt liked to avoid the kitchen altogether so she could sit with us kids in the living room and make fun of everyone else.
We didn’t talk much about what we were grateful for. The day was for food and family, and I’ve kept with this tradition my entire life. Lately, however, I’ve read a lot of articles reminding me of the deeper meaning of the holidays.
I work in retail, which makes it remarkably easy to forget that Thanksgiving is anything other than the day before Black Friday. Preparations have already been made in every retail outlet in this country for the flood of shoppers heading out as early as 5 p.m. Thanksgiving night to scoop up the best of the bargains. My store will be a madhouse, my day a blur of harried apologies for already being out of stock on the hottest items. Honestly, I’m not looking forward to it. I’m very much afraid I’ll end the day bitter and exhausted–and that’s no way to spend Thanksgiving Day.
In an effort to remain festive (or at least to regain a small bit of my good will towards man), I’d begun drafting a list of things I’m thankful for. My goal was to add one new item every day, then read it after I got home from work Thursday. I started with the obvious “my family,” “my home,” etc. Then I stopped, and really thought about it.
It’s easy to be thankful for children, a spouse, a job you like, food in the cabinets. Every single day, I take a moment to give thanks for the people in my life and the advantages I have. Whether I write it down or not, I’m already aware of these things. The real challenge would be finding good within the bad. Taking an unpleasant memory, discovering the hidden blessing, and being grateful.
Much to my surprise, I came up with several. This is my favorite:
About ten years ago, I took my minivan into the shop for an oil change. My husband was out of town for business and the oil change was overdue. I called the garage, set up an appointment, and packed some toys for my son to play with while we waited. I think the mechanics saw me coming a mile away. They took the van in the back, raised it up, talked amongst themselves a bit, then came down to sit with me. “Ma’am, were you aware of how bad your brakes are?”
Well, yeah. They’d been squealing a bit recently. We were getting by, financially, but the expense of rotors and shoes (or whatever) would have to wait a few weeks.
“Ma’am, I can’t in good conscience advise you to continue driving your little boy around without getting these fixed.”
It was a good tactic. Immediately, I responded as they’d hoped. “Are they really that bad?”
For the better part of twenty minutes, this guy proceeded to scare the crap out of me. My brakes were EATING through my rims. It was only a matter of time (and there wasn’t much left) before the metal gave. Why, I could drive three blocks away from here and my TIRES COULD POP RIGHT OFF. That’s right…my wheels could just fly off the frame.
That’s what the guy told me. Being young, naïve, and without the slightest knowledge of automobiles, I bought this. I was biting my lip, biting my nails, nervously trying to figure out how I could scrape together the $400 bucks this guy needed to keep the tires from spontaneously detaching from the van.
He was cutting me a deal, and I was desperate to take him up on it. If I’d had the money, or could have seen a way to get the money, I would have handed it over then and there. Because I didn’t, I drove home going 10 mph and didn’t leave the house again until my husband made it home–at which point he explained to me the impossibility of the story I’d been told.
A young couple struggling to make ends meet, we were not grateful to be “poor.” We should’ve been. Lack of money is the only thing that prevented me from wasting $400.
No, it’s not the most touching of stories, but I did what I set out to do. I took a memory that has aggravated me for a decade, and found a reason to be grateful.