We have a Thanksgiving Day tradition in our home. To the side of each person’s plate at the family table, three kernels of unpopped popcorn are placed. They symbolize the corn the native Americans provided the pilgrims at that first Thanksgiving potluck. Following our dinner of roast turkey and trimmings and before the pumpkin pie, we go around the table and (holding the kernels of popcorn) and verbalize three things for which we are grateful this past year.
This year my top three reasons for thanks-giving are quite obvious. I will finger my first kernel of corn with gratitude for our second grandchild born this past April. A healthy Ivy Joy Anderson joined her big sister Imogen who will turn three in January. Cradling that miniature human being for the first time called to mind the miracle of birth. The gift of new life has a way of rebooting one’s operating system. It gives us a fresh perspective of what’s going on and what really matters. As someone once said, “Babies are God’s way of saying He hasn’t given up on the world.”
Looking back on this year, I will hold up my second kernel of popcorn grateful for my mom. The star of our family (my mom’s name actually was Star) died in July at the age of 92. Although dementia had diminished the quality of my mom’s life in recent years, it had not robbed her of an ability to love music, her family or her God. My heart is filled with gratitude as I celebrate having this special person in my life for 67 years. My mother’s death has unlocked a treasure trove of special memories that sweetens the bitterness of sorrow.
My third kernel of corn concerns a unique experience I had not long ago. It was a weekend trip I took to Washington, D.C. with one of our residents at “The Shores.” Because Marlin “Zip” Zuther’s only family lives in Singapore, I was invited to be the chaperone for this Korean War veteran. Zip and I traveled with the Puget Sound Honor Flight organization that allows veterans in our area the opportunity to visit the military memorials in our nation’s capital, all expenses paid. I continue to be impressed by this amazing program that pays tribute to “the greatest generation” who paid freedom’s price tag.
It was not only Zip’s first opportunity to visit the memorials, it was the first time this 88-year-old had ever been to Washington, D.C. Because of Zip’s limitations, I pushed him in a wheel chair all three days. In addition to the Korean and World War II memorials, we visited the Vietnam Wall and the impressive remembrances to FDR and MLK.
But the highlight of the trip for me was the half hour we spent at the Lincoln Memorial. The view of the National Mall from Mr. Lincoln’s throne was breathtaking. But what was just as breathtaking for me was seeing my elderly friend seated in his wheelchair facing the likeness of our 16th President. I couldn’t resist taking a photo with my iPhone.
Upon returning home I had a canvas enlargement made of that image of Zip in his wheeled throne in front of Lincoln on his stone throne. It is a poignant picture of a grateful American sitting in the presence of one who influenced our country for good. It is as if Zip is thanking Mr. Lincoln for his courageous contributions that have compounded into a growing endowment of liberty. It is a reminder for me to be grateful to God for the privilege of living in a nation He has blessed in countless ways. It is a reminder that Thanksgiving is more than a day. Gratitude is an attitude we can choose all year long.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is the chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores retirement community.