Life with Liz: A season to give thanks
We’re now knee deep in the holiday marathon. Although it’s the kickoff to the madness of Christmas, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite speed bump between the sugar rush of Halloween and the overwhelming cheerfulness of Christmas and the new year. It seems that for the third or fourth time in as many years, we’re trying yet another “new” tradition. We still plan to do a little bit of travel, but instead of falling over the holiday, A and I will be spending a few days in Philadelphia as he has several days full of tests and doctor visits.
We’re going to be heading out of town with friends for a few days as well, so it seemed like it would be a good time to park our butts at home, continue with our home projects and relax. While I’m busy making sure we have enough paint brushes and cleaning supplies so that I don’t have to leave the house on Black Friday, our change of pace has also given me a little bit of time to sit back and be truly grateful for this past year.
I feel like starting out with a little Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It’s funny how things that feel like the worst of times can sometimes bring out the absolute best in people. Over the past year, I’ve found myself in the middle of a divided community, a troubled nation, an ever-changing work environment and, of course, a home life that has been chaotic.
With the terrible mass shooting in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, the famous Mr. Rogers quote made the rounds on social media: “Look for the helpers.” I realized that those helpers are the people that have made this crazy year survivable.
First, I look to my family. The Wonderful Husband and the kids have been impacted greatly by some big decisions we’ve made together as a family, and some that I or the WH made on our own. Tempers have flared, accusations have been made, fights have been ongoing. It hasn’t been easy, but there have been times when I’ve needed it the most that they’ve picked up the paint roller, or actually managed to put their laundry away in the right drawer, or made dinner, and it was just the help that I needed and a reminder that when push comes to shove, we are always there for each other.
Secondly, I look to my friends. So many of my friends have been going through their own crises this year, whether it’s an ailing parent or family member, professional changes, or the myriad other challenges that come with being an adult. Yet, they all still managed to find time to reach out when they knew I needed them most. They’re there when I need to cry and always make me laugh.
Then, there’s my job. Sure, it would be nice to be independently wealthy and sit by the pool and eat bonbons all day, but until then, I’m so very lucky to have not one but two jobs right here in my own backyard. One of them is an international leader in a competitive, cutting-edge technology, and the other is our local newspaper. The pressures and challenges provided by each of them couldn’t be more different, but they are both exciting in their own way. I’m also blessed with some of the best co-workers ever. Since there are days that I spend more time with them than I do with my own family, getting along with them is critical. I’m grateful to be part of a team that works together like we do.
Finally, there’s my community. Coming back to a small town was always what I planned to do. There are pluses and minuses, and some days, I do question my decision. Some of the challenges that have faced our community recently have had me questioning if it’s too late to change my mind and leave for greener pastures. Once again, though, when I look for the helpers, I see people who are really, truly changing lives every day, and I am proud to know them.
One neighbor, LL, never ceases to amaze me. Although she’s battling her own personal issues, she never, ever fails to leap into action the moment someone needs help. Whether she was updating Facebook with the needs of our neighboring communities that flooded earlier this year, or helping my son collect cans for his school food drive, or collecting spoons for homeless veterans, LL is one of the people who is making a difference in lives every single day, and I’m so proud to know her.
Every single day, I am grateful for the efforts of my children’s teachers. These are the people who spend more time with them many days than I do, and as I sat in G’s conference a few weeks ago, with his two amazing educators, I realized just how much they really do care for him as if he were their own. Without a doubt, they make every other one of the 40-some children they teach feel that way, too. As A navigates the choppy waters of middle school, I am grateful for the quick note a teacher dropped to let me know that she enjoyed having him in class. These people are making my children into better people with their caring, their compassion, and their commitment to getting the best out of my kids, and for that, I am so very grateful.
And, last, but certainly not least, I am renewed by the strength that I’ve recently seen in our community, as a group of dedicated volunteers has rallied to try to combat school violence in an intelligent, methodical way. The hours that these people have committed beyond their families, their jobs, the stacks of laundry that are surely piling up, is humbling. The people that we’ve met and conversed with in other similar groups around the country is inspiring. There really are good people in the world, trying to make it a better place every day.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the helpers out there doing what you do. This world would be an ugly place without you. It’s early for my new year’s resolution, but I already know that my goal for next year is to not only recognize the helpers, but to be more of one myself.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.