© Submitted photo
This past weekend was a very special Thanksgiving for our family, as we had a much larger gathering than usual for dinner -- and to celebrate a wedding. In some ways, Thanksgiving seems the perfect time for this kind of celebration: a time to give thanks for the hope and promise of a new family, and to appreciate all the good fortune that brought us to this point.
Thanksgiving is an October holiday in Canada, a late November holiday in the United States, and marked on still other dates in other countries. Regardless of the exact date, it links us to our agricultural roots, celebrating harvest and the abundance -- we hope -- from the fields. As the trees are rich with colour, and the fields are golden, it does seem like a time of prosperity to be appreciated.
As someone who grew up on a Saskatchewan farm, I can think of many Thanksgiving dinners that truly were harvest celebrations. Mom would cook, gather us kids, and take the dinner to the field to be eaten on a tailgate next to the combine that was stopped momentarily. There was more thanks given for a meal such as this, as compared to one at the dinner table, since having everyone around the table would likely be a sign of bad weather keeping the farmers from the fields.
For my children, there were dinners at the grandparents’ homes, and many gatherings at our big old house. The photo albums have pictures, added year after year, of our kids, their cousins, then cousins’ children, playing in the mounds of golden birch leaves on the lawn, after a big Thanksgiving dinner.
I also remember one Thanksgiving in particular, when my father-in-law, husband, and two of our children went fishing. The small boat hit something, and they all ended up in the very cold water. They got to shore, got back to the city and a couple of rather blue-looking kids were rewarmed before having dinner. I was very, very thankful that year that all were safe.
Thanksgiving is about appreciation. There are many problems in the world, in our country and in our community, to be sure. And while we should all keep working to fix the inequities as we can, we should also be appreciative, and humble, in light of all we enjoy. Gratitude means not only acknowledging your blessings, but understanding that they are not of your own making.
We are all blessed by the fact we live in Canada, a land of plenty where human rights are honoured in law and in practice. We are blessed to live in Saskatchewan, a province with a thriving economy and many opportunities. Those of us who have education, good jobs and good health are the beneficiaries of all those who have come before us, who fought for change, and who invested their time and efforts in helping us achieve what we often take for granted today.
I have a reminder of our collective good fortune posted on my computer desktop, a card shared on social media. I haven’t checked out all the figures to ensure their accuracy, but I believe them to be reasonably true. It always helps me to put my troubles in perspective. It reads:
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75 per cent of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top eight per cent of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this message you are more fortunate than three billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.
I feel especially thankful this year for family, for all those who made a special effort to be part of our celebration this past weekend. I am thankful that, for family who couldn’t be there due to ill health, there are hard-working people and a trusted health system to provide care. I am thankful for the new family we have gained, as our children have widened the circle with their own families.
Despite the stresses and worries of daily life, I am so blessed. I hope that your Thanksgiving weekend had you feeling that way, too.
Barb Gustafson is a lifelong resident of Prince Albert and is a former managing editor and publisher of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. Email: email@example.com