Malcolm McDowell Woods
Baloney on Wry

Gratitude is a year-round affair

By - Oct 1st, 2009 10:05 am
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Oct09 Baloney on Wry
Kathi J Gardner
822 words
I grew up in a house filled with three generations of family. Watching the older folks as they lost friends and loved ones to illness and old age served to make me acutely aware of the transitory nature of life far earlier, I think, than most children. I learned to live in the moment, to treasure it for itself.
I also learned to be thankful far more often than once a year in November. I don’t recall my parents ever emphasizing the importance of gratitude, but their examples were enough to instill in me the realization that life is full of daily gifts worth acknowledging.
The conversation around the dinner table at night was often about thanks, from the simplest of things like Mother Nature holding off the rain until the last load of hay was safely in the barn to the pig that produced a larger than expected litter of healthy piglets. Even mixed blessings were counted – a neighbor who had seemed in the prime of life went to bed one night and never awakened, but to my father it was a gift that his friend went quickly in his sleep without suffering.
My mother was a devout Christian who believed in making her thanks to the Almighty visible. She cooked for, transported, ran errands for and nursed elderly friends and neighbors who had no one to help them. She wrote letters, even keeping in touch with her first grade-school teacher, a lovely lady poet who still teaches community college in Colorado at the age of ninety-seven. My mother loved almost everyone she met unconditionally, and those few she could not find it in herself to love, she simply left alone.
While my father did not, perhaps, share my mother’s religious fervor, he was in his own right a fine friend and neighbor. When another farmer fell ill with a dreadful staph infection that incapacitated him for the summer, my father milked the neighbor’s cows along with his own, often not finishing work until ten o’clock at night and rising again at five A.M. He helped another neighbor, age ninety-two, gather sap for maple syrup and sat with him late into the evening while the syrup cooked up. I never heard him utter a swear word, and although he suffered with what was then called ‘shell shock’ (post-traumatic stress disorder) from WWII for most of his adult life, he bore no ill will toward the German soldiers he fought against. He was as true a gentleman as my mother was a lady, and I miss them both deeply, but I consider myself fortunate to have had them in my life for so long.
This has been a difficult year for us. My sister lost her beloved life partner to cancer; my brother was faced with the onerous task of selling the family farm, auctioning off generations of possessions and leaving behind the home he had known since birth; Jay was compelled to work grueling 12-hour shifts until his retirement mid-year; and I am spending my work days shadowed by a cloud of uncertainty due to massive budget cuts.
Unlike Jay who hated his job in recent years with a burning, feverish wrath he generally reserves for door-to-door solicitors, I have a job that I adore. It is the perfect position for someone who loves books and people, and I have been blessed to be able to spend thirty-seven years doing something that gives me such pleasure.
I know that the place where I work is unusual. We are in many ways a family to one another; we care for one another’s pets, cook for one another, remember each other’s birthdays, and try to do small kindnesses in times of stress. We work hard, but we laugh a lot, too, and we always have each other’s backs.
This is due in large part to our boss. I’ve been fortunate to have good people to work for over the years, but Mr. B is the person we should all want to be when we grow up. He is patient, kind, approachable, and has a true gift defusing difficult situations. He genuinely loves people, and we all know that he cares about us, even on our worst days. He laughs with us, shares our griefs and above all, he listens.
I have great hopes that I may be able to finish out my working life in this environment of warmth and caring, but lately the grim specter of progress is hanging over us all. The uncertainty is stressful not only for myself but for all of us who value our time together, and yet in a very real way it has made me even more aware of my great good fortune.
I know that this moment … and this … are all we are assured of.
For each, I am deeply and sincerely thankful.
Kathi Gardner, grateful for what her parents taught her.

Kathi Gardner, grateful for what her parents taught her.

I grew up in a house filled with three generations of family. Watching the older folks as they lost friends and loved ones to illness and old age served to make me acutely aware of the transitory nature of life far earlier, I think, than most children. I learned to live in the moment, to treasure it for itself.

I also learned to be thankful far more often than once a year in November. I don’t recall my parents ever emphasizing the importance of gratitude, but their examples were enough to instill in me the realization that life is full of daily gifts worth acknowledging.

The conversation around the dinner table at night was often about thanks, from the simplest of things like Mother Nature holding off the rain until the last load of hay was safely in the barn to the pig that produced a larger than expected litter of healthy piglets. Even mixed blessings were counted — a neighbor who had seemed in the prime of life went to bed one night and never awakened, but to my father it was a gift that his friend went quickly in his sleep without suffering.

My mother was a devout Christian who believed in making her thanks to the Almighty visible. She cooked for, transported, ran errands for and nursed elderly friends and neighbors who had no one to help them. She wrote letters, even keeping in touch with her first grade-school teacher, a lovely lady poet who still teaches community college in Colorado at the age of ninety-seven. My mother loved almost everyone she met unconditionally, and those few she could not find it in herself to love, she simply left alone.

While my father did not, perhaps, share my mother’s religious fervor, he was in his own right a fine friend and neighbor. When another farmer fell ill with a dreadful staph infection that incapacitated him for the summer, my father milked the neighbor’s cows along with his own, often not finishing work until ten o’clock at night and rising again at five a.m. He helped another neighbor, age ninety-two, gather sap for maple syrup and sat with him late into the evening while the syrup cooked up. I never heard him utter a swear word, and although he suffered with what was then called ‘shell shock’ (post-traumatic stress disorder) from WWII for most of his adult life, he bore no ill will toward the German soldiers he fought against. He was as true a gentleman as my mother was a lady, and I miss them both deeply, but I consider myself fortunate to have had them in my life for so long.

This has been a difficult year for us. My sister lost her beloved life partner to cancer; my brother was faced with the onerous task of selling the family farm, auctioning off generations of possessions and leaving behind the home he had known since birth; Jay was compelled to work grueling 12-hour shifts until his retirement mid-year; and I am spending my work days shadowed by a cloud of uncertainty due to massive budget cuts.

Unlike Jay who hated his job in recent years with a burning, feverish wrath he generally reserves for door-to-door solicitors, I have a job that I adore. It is the perfect position for someone who loves books and people, and I have been blessed to be able to spend thirty-seven years doing something that gives me such pleasure.

I know that the place where I work is unusual. We are in many ways a family to one another; we care for one another’s pets, cook for one another, remember each other’s birthdays, and try to do small kindnesses in times of stress. We work hard, but we laugh a lot, too, and we always have each other’s backs.

This is due in large part to our boss. I’ve been fortunate to have good people to work for over the years, but Mr. B is the person we should all want to be when we grow up. He is patient, kind, approachable, and has a true gift defusing difficult situations. He genuinely loves people, and we all know that he cares about us, even on our worst days. He laughs with us, shares our griefs and above all, he listens.

I have great hopes that I may be able to finish out my working life in this environment of warmth and caring, but lately the grim specter of progress is hanging over us all. The uncertainty is stressful not only for myself but for all of us who value our time together, and yet in a very real way it has made me even more aware of my great good fortune.

I know that this moment … and this … are all we are assured of. For each, I am deeply and sincerely thankful.

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