There’s a classic, soulful slice of early-’70s R&B with the optimistic title “Be Thankful for What You Got,” written and first performed by a cool cat named William DeVaughn. It’s a sinuous song with the deathless couplet, “Diamond in the back, sunroof top / Diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean.” Even if it’s unfamiliar to you, I’m certain that you can dig the sentiment it embraces.
DeVaughn sings about what may be lacking in someone’s life, as in “a great big Cadillac”. . . or any car at all, but adding that “you can still stand tall” by being thankful for what you’ve got. I see things from a different perspective.
Take that annual late November celebration — the one Thursday night a year when we endure a confluence of family members, close or distant, along with a salting of friends, and cram our gullets with roasted bird, cranberry glop, yam atrocities, and other autumnal grub to put on a show of gratitude for all the stuff that makes our lives better. Not me. I generally take a moment or two and set down the turkey leg or turn away from whatever football game is unfolding on the big-screen. Then I close my eyes and mutter a quiet thank-you for all the things I don’t have.
THE HAVES AND THE DON’T-WANTS
Call me Mr. Negative, but there’s only so much you can acknowledge on the “have” side. Whereas there’s a whole world of things you don’t have, unless you’re a tech zillionaire or a Saudi prince — and I’m not sure how many would opt to be the latter. And in some cases, absence may not make the heart grow fonder, but may be for the better. In other words, I’m thankful for troubles that are avoided, burdens that have fallen elsewhere, bullets dodged, and natural disasters that hit somewhere I’m not.
So many problems and so much ugliness can come into a life. We need to be cognizant of how good it is when we’re spared from unpleasantness, treachery, or out-and-out danger. From distress to doldrums, it’s downright debilitating. I don’t know about you, but I am beyond relieved that certain people — false friends, faithless lovers, noisy neighbors, and annoying co-workers — who were once like barnacles on my hull are now scraped away. It’s addition by subtraction. And though we might be susceptible to earthquakes and the rare tsunami in California, especially in the coastal cities and towns, thank the global weather patterns that we don’t get monsoons or hurricanes or much in the way of tornadoes here . . . yet. (I see you, climate change, you seemingly unstoppable juggernaut!)
How many times have I driven past an accident on the freeway, heard the wail of an ambulance, or had a fire truck pass me on its way to the scene of a tragic situation? Is that a cop giving some hotshot a speeding ticket, or is that a parking ticket on the car next to my ticket-free auto? I give thanks that those particular pitfalls didn’t bedevil me. At least, not then and there.
PLAGUES AND PROGENY
As for the diseases that haven’t plagued me, I don’t want them around, they’re not welcome, and I’m glad I don’t have them. May they keep away from me for the duration of my stay on planet Earth!
Staying on the subject of biological issues that can cause you harm, I want to propose a toast to the children I never had. Sure, they’re not around to make me proud, nor will they be here to care for me in my old age. More to the point, they’ve never been a source of disappointment to me, and they’ve never derailed career opportunities, travel plans, or all-night revels. Thanks, non-kids!
If any of this sounds selfish (and I recognize that the section exulting in a lack of offspring is pretty self-centered), consider how selfish it is for any of us to so enthusiastically count our blessings on Thanksgiving. C’mon, people! It’s not a competition.
That’s it. I’ve had my say. And believe me, I’m thankful to almost be finished writing this particular column. Okay. Done until next month’s foolishness. Thanks for reading. Or if it would have disturbed you in any way that would lead to an angry letter to the editor, thanks for not reading.