One of the benefits of getting older is that you have the opportunity to experience good times, bad times and everything in between. Sure we've all had varying degrees of both good and bad experiences, but the older you get the more of each you've seen and the more you can appreciate the truly good times. It's hard to know what it feels like to be out of work until you've done it. It's hard to understand what true heartbreak is until the person you thought was the love of your life ends up not being the "one", and the relationship you thought would last forever goes down in flames. It's hard to understand true loss until you've lost a loved one to illness or accident. It's hard to understand the burden of being responsible for another human being until you've been a parent and had to shepherd your children through the tumult of childhood and the hell that is adolescence. In short, when you're young you don't know s*** because you haven't experienced much yet, and in turn it would be unreasonable to expect you to have the perspective necessary to know how thankful you really should be for what you have.
As a parent it's both frightening and bemusing to watch your children go through the process of discovering what good times and bad times truly are. Watching them learn that earning a "D" on a test isn't a tragedy, but not being able to go to school because your parents are out of work certainly could be. Seeing them suffer through a relationship because they don't understand that there are so many people out there who will treat them better, or on the flip side, watching them walk away from a relationship with someone who loves and respects them for who they are because of a short-term need. Or listening to them gripe about their crappy phone, and of course extolling the virtues of their friend's phone – you know, the friend with the cool parents who make sure they always have the latest and greatest – without ever considering how lucky they are to simply have a warm, safe place to sit and talk on their supposedly-crappy phones. It's bemusing to watch because we have the perspective that they lack, and it's frightening to behold because we know how much pain they'll need to experience to gain it.
If you've been on Facebook recently you've likely seen a new meme, or trend, that you could call the "Thankful" exercise; every day throughout the month of November people are sharing something for which they are thankful. Sure it's a bit hokey, but it's also useful to take a moment each day to remember how many reasons you have to be thankful. Of course I say this after having not participated at all to this point, so let me take a little of this space and your time to share just a few of the reasons I'm thankful:
- First and foremost that I have a marriage that gives back to me so much more than I've put into it. Of course that means I have a wonderful wife – I'm not just saying that Celeste – but there are many marriages between two good people that haven't worked out, so I'm eternally thankful that ours has. As Celeste told me two nights ago, we're in a great place right now. I don't think we could know how great a place we're in if we hadn't had 20+ years of good, bad and ugly places up 'til now.
- That I have three great kids who seem to still like their parents after all these years. Yeah, they do their share of weird and idiotic things, but they're great people and I look forward to seeing them gain some perspective.
- That I have parents I can still call for advice and perspective – in particular a mother who calls BS when she hears it.
- That I have a brother who I talk to as much as I ever have even though we live hundreds of miles apart.
- That I have friends who have literally been with me for decades, through thick and thin, who know me better than I know myself and still let me call them friends.
- That I'm surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws and we all like each other.
- That my grandmother has lived to the wonderful age of 93, and that my aunts are there for her – and that my aunts don't beat me up for not seeing my Grandmother as often as I should.
- That I have a job that I truly enjoy and allows me to spend huge chunks of time with people I love and respect.
- That I've found a church that has welcomed my family and has made me feel at home.
- That I have a house/money-pit that has truly become a home – a vessel containing over eight years of memories with my family.
I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Thanks for indulging me, and if you're so inclined please feel free to share what you're thankful for on this fine day.