With a thankful heart
Posted By Sparta Live | December 2, 2019 1:33 pm
The Right Stuff – by Donald Holman
As I began to think of all the current goings-on with our country, I feel a certain fatigue with reporting on all the strife that currently exists in our political life. Even though much could be said about those things, I thought we could all use a break from it.
This Thanksgiving Day followed a certain tradition we have developed in the years since my last remaining parent, Flo Holman, died. Dining with my sister and nephew, we looked across a table filled with all the traditional foods we all love. The conversation was quieter, the passing of dishes less filled with confusion, and there was plenty of elbow room at the table.
I, being a bachelor for many years, had always celebrated the holidays with my parents, at first both at a crowded table with all chairs available at the enlarged table, to the smaller celebrations as the family scattered far and wide. Indeed, most of my siblings now have families of their own and celebrate the holiday gathering with their own miniature family feasts from the past.
When my father died, it seemed to me a large part of the excitement of going “home” for the holidays died with him. Still, for Mom’s sake as well as our own, most of us at least put in a token appearance during the holiday. I think we all realized in a more urgent way that our times to gather for the holidays around the old family table were surely coming to a close.
When my mother died, we had no central gathering place, and many of us scattered into celebrations with the smaller pieces of our own families, replacing the old traditions so important while my parents were alive.
I have said all of that to simply give context to this – as you shop and wrap and purchase all the goodies for Christmas, pause and reflect for a moment. The things that are truly important to us are often taken for granted until death forces us to realize what was really behind the happiness of the holidays. What one of us would not trade every Christmas present we will get this year for just one more holiday with all our loved ones around the table and the noisy chatter of the assemblage? The truth is that those things most precious to us, most important to us, most impactful on our lives cannot be purchased at any store.
I find myself so thankful, in every possible sense of the word, to have been raised by loving, hardworking parents that taught us not only through their teaching but by their example that the true path to happiness starts with the simple dignity of making our own way through life. From a very young age, my siblings and I were encouraged to get paper routes, babysit, haul hay, and a thousand other forms of work so that we could have that pride and fulfillment that only comes from realizing money that one earns themselves, through their own hard work and dedication.
It was through earning our own money that the virtues of a well-lived life were made real to us. When a kid is cheated out of his hard-earned money through the dishonesty of others, the value of honesty is driven home in a very practical way. When we depended on others to help us accomplish a work-related task and they failed us, we realized how important it is to keep the commitments we made to our fellow man. On and on this list could go, pointing out the things we learned at a young age, when we only lost a few dollars through our bad judgement or misplaced trust. Although it seemed tragic enough to us at the time, it was a life lesson learned early and cheaply compared to the costs of major purchases later in life that we thought about carefully as a result of those early lessons.
My father, as the pastor of the church we all attended, taught us all these things and more as we sat in his congregation over the years. But all the preaching in the world did not have the same impact that resulted from these early failures; it instead re-enforced them. As we attended the funerals of members of the congregation, it drove home the idea that life is not something that will last forever, and death is not a thing that comes at a convenient time in life or even at the end of a normal life span. Members of the congregation met their untimely deaths on holidays, and weekends, and even in the middle of creating their families. I don’t know that any of us were fearful as a result of this early exposure, but we certainly realized death was willing and able to snatch away any one of us, at any time.
As kids, we were all taught to be independent thinkers and to examine what was told to us with an eye toward the motives of the speaker. We were taught to be our own person, not to worry about following the crowd, and to always keep the standards we set for ourselves, regardless of the expectations of those around us. It has not always been either easy or perfect to adhere to these standards over the years. I never thought I could perfectly perform in my own life, but I always had the example of my parent’s lives and the ideals taught from the pulpit to strive to attain.
For those of you with intact families, I urge you to consider how precious this upcoming Christmas will be for the immaterial reasons – for the love freely given and realized in the family circle. For those of us orphaned at any age, the holidays become a time of reflection, but we should also find joy in the wonderful memories. Many families never had that storybook Christmas we enjoyed.
And I would wish for our country, that we realize we are all in this together. It was M.L.K. that said, “We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools.” For over 200 years at the end of every election, at the turn of every century, we have understood this basic truth. It is that truth I would hope we all realize as this contentious election season begins.