How we give thanks is a matter of perspective
by Matt Ryerson
Nov 21, 2012 | 572 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the spirit of the season, our son was recently completing a lesson on the Pilgrims and how they lived when they arrived on this continent. This was an in-depth study of some of the hardships our first citizens experienced, including the challenges of creating clean water, staying warm and even where they went to the bathroom.

After listening to several minutes of this existence, my 6-year-old son slowly turned to my wife and said in a solemn voice, “I would have never made it as a Pilgrim.”

He is probably right. They didn’t have iPads, ice cream or Star Wars in the days of the Pilgrims. In fairness, after hearing the lesson, I am not sure I would have made it either. It makes me thankful for the life we live today.

Isn’t that funny? Someone else’s hardship leaves us thankful for our blessings. Shouldn’t we just be happy for what we have and not be happy for how it could have been worse? Unfortunately, that isn’t the way we work. Or at least, it’s not the way I work.

I was recently watching the news and saw a crazy story where someone had a plane land on top of their house. All I could think was, “Boy, I am glad I’m not that guy.” I was thankful for my house not serving as a runway. At the same time, the guy with the plane parked on top of his house is probably thankful he wasn’t killed. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

My wife started a tradition this time of year several years ago where we do a Thanksgiving tree. This tree is simply pinned on the wall with some artificial leaves. Each day, we write on the leaves something we are thankful for and hang it up. We had a proud moment recently when we asked our daughter what she was thankful for and she answered, “That I can give gifts to my friends.”

Wow! How awesome is that? At 4, she already has a spirit of giving and gets joy from that experience.

Inspired by her answer, we asked her what else she was thankful for ... “That I get gifts, too!”

OK. Well, she is 4. And to be honest, don’t we all like getting gifts?

This year we put up our Christmas tree shortly after Halloween. I have struggled to wait on putting up the tree until after Thanksgiving. I have fought the good fight and I have lost. Christmas carols fill the air, decorations cover the walls and the lights on the tree cast a warm glow throughout the house ... and we haven’t even carved the turkey yet!

But as much as I complain about this premature celebration, those ill feelings can go away in a moment. That night, after the tree was complete, we brought our 5-month-old daughter and placed her in front of the lit tree in all of its Christmas glory and we watched as her eyes grew big and her mouth spread into the biggest smile of the day as she experienced her first bit of Christmas joy in her young life.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for. We have family. We have friends. We have a beautiful community. And yes, I’m done setting up the tree and there is no plane parked on my house ... all a matter of perspective.

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(Editor’s Note: Matt has a family of six — a beautiful wife, a son, two daughters, the family dogs — Tucker and Boomer — and five chickens. Matt is also thankful for the many readers who have shared their own family experiences with him over the years. His column appears every other Wednesday in the Cleveland Daily Banner.)