I’ve got a friend who used to tell people “ Every day above ground’s a good one” when they asked how he was doing. I always used to agree with him but have realized in the intervening years that if you are not in good health life may be a struggle. If you have your health you are rich. If you have a million dollars but can’t hardly breath or are bed ridden life may not be so rosy. I had a friend who struggled through the last year of life mostly bedridden. This was very rough on someone who had been active all his life. It was very hard to see his situation. This brought home the realization that just being alive (being above ground) might come with a hard price. Of course there are people who adapt to these type situations and are happy with their current lot in life but this brought home to me my current good fortune. At this time of year, being near Thanksgiving and prior to Christmas, I always try to do a positive article. I like to mention the things I am thankful for. I usually list family, friends and freedoms. I have come to realize I have neglected to list one other very important thing to be grateful for.
This year I want to definitely include my health in my list of things I’m thankful for. I am in relatively good health. Sure I wear special supports in my shoes all the time, take high blood pressure medicine and am currently feeling the effects of having things cut and frozen at the dermatologist (sunscreen folks, use lots of sunscreen) but overall I’m doing pretty well health-wise. I wish I could say the same for some people around me.
Every two weeks now I go to an infusion center here in town (Chattanooga, TN). I take someone who requires treatment for cancer by chemotherapy. The ride is usually fairly quiet. This person is very stoic about receiving the treatment. I have not heard a complaint about having to get the treatment or they asking why this malady has been placed on them. When we get there they are assigned a chair and we walk through the infusion area. What really gets to me is walking by all the chairs occupied by people getting “chemo”. Most are sitting quietly by themselves. Some have company. Are they husbands, wives, or with significant others? What about the people with them? I always wonder as I pass each space. I try to study their faces as I walk by. What am I looking for? I don’t know. I do know each has a story. Many have a sunken or haunted look on their face. I wonder what type of cancer they have, what type medicine they are taking, how long they have been getting treatment and other questions I wonder how they wrestle with the inner demons of their body attacking itself and the debilitating physical and mental effects wrought by the disease and its treatment. Chemotherapy is not a natural thing and can wreak havoc with the body while trying to “cure” the cancer. I feel sorrow for these people along with my curiosity. I feel lucky every time I go to the infusion center that I am not a patient but I also have a fear that one day I too might be in this place or one like it. Both my mother and father as well as two uncles succumbed to cancer but for now I am thankful for the medicines fighting the cancer in the one I am taking for treatment.
But let’s move on to more cheerful things. This is an article about thanks and gifts or blessings. I am thankful for the family I was born into and the one that has adopted me. While not a formal or legal adoption the bond between us is stronger than many “blood” families. I never had any biological sisters but now I have three adopted sisters. It is definitely good to be able to have female sounding boards who only have your best interest in mind. My mother’s side of the family has remained close through the years and we get together on some birthdays, the 4th of July and of course Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have been through marriages, divorces, births, deaths and other family affairs but it was as a family. Having this support has been very valuable to me.
I am so thankful for the gift of being born in the United States of America, still the greatest country in the world. I have the ability to worship as I please if I please. So many people take this simple freedom for granted. Many forget, and I believe most are not taught why our country was founded. Our forefathers had to fight for religious freedom. Sadly many “Americans” don’t care about this hard won freedom.
One freedom I am also thankful for is my ability to own, shoot, and collect firearms. I have shot for many years. I was a police officer and carried a gun for a living. I was on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. I got paid to shoot pistols, sniper rifles and machine guns. I had a blast. I have been a Tennessee Handgun permit class instructor since 1996.Firearms have been far more than a hobby or pasttime to me. Many countries deny their citizens such rights. I truly thank God I was born in the United States and can exercise such a freedom.
I am also very thankful that in the United States of America we have the right of free speech. Now more than ever, it seems, people are criticizing the government and even openly showing disrespect. In many countries this would not be allowed and repressed. Here you have the ability to say what you feel no matter how negative. People have fought and died to allow you that privilege. Yet most people take this freedom for granted. They have always had this ability so they don’t recognize what this “right” means.
So during this holiday season whatever your religious persuasion take time to reflect on your situation.. If you have your health you have a tremendous blessing. If you are mobile you have a tremendous gift you should not take for granted. If you live in the United States be thankful for your many freedoms. This is supposed to be a time of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.” Perhaps we should all remember and try that.
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.
– Mark Haskins
Background Music: Rumors of Fleetwood Mac in concert