My wife and I just celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. I had planned a quiet night out at a nice restaurant with my bride to mark the momentous occasion.
Of course, we nixed those plans since we have self-quarantined during the coronavirus health emergency. You can probably relate.
Instead, we spent the day like all our other social distancing, self-quarantined days. We read a little, played games, watched some television, I wrote, Neva quilted.
Unprecedented, uncharted territory each describe the current coronavirus pandemic. We all have had to make adjustments, sacrifices, lifestyle changes, hoping against hope they will be temporary.
We hope, too, that as many people as possible will stay healthy and alive. But the numbers of casualties from this horrible contagion keep multiplying daily. The curve has yet to be flattened in too many locales.
Neva and I are grateful to have lived these 49 years together. Over those nearly five decades, we each had to make adjustments and changes to ensure the partnership worked. That’s the way marriage is meant to be.
We each made those sacrifices for the benefit of the other. In marriage, you live not for yourself, but first for your spouse. However, our modifications paled in comparison to what others are having to do in the current coronavirus situation.
During our homebound times, I thought a lot about our marriage as our anniversary approached. We have much for which to be grateful. We have two marvelous children who are both successful adults in every way.
We love our energetic and talented trio of grandchildren. They keep us on our toes and fill us with joy and pride in living out their young lives. Of course, baseball, dramas, concerts, soccer, high-fives, and hugs have all been put on hold for now. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before those happenings can be renewed.
We had to get creative with our communications. Text messages, FaceTime chats, and occasional visits with them and their parents on our back porch, always keeping a safe distance, have to suffice for now.
Neva and I have traveled to many places as a couple. We have strolled on beaches, walked many trails, and climbed literal and figurative mountains together. None of them were as steep and challenging to traverse as this current global crisis.
We have many, many folks to thank for helping us along this marital march. Family, friends, churches, communities. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.
I thought it a bit ironic then that we would simply celebrate number 49 all alone. Our daughter changed that scenario by picking up carryout dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and dining with us on our back porch. Of course, we kept our distance.
Neva and I have been through a lot since that beautiful day in March 1971. But, like you, we have never endured anything like this pandemic.
In our quietude, we silently said a gracious thank you for all those strangers, friends, and family, living and dead, who have blessed and enriched our lives with joy, love, and understanding.
Neva and I are forever thankful for all that the good Lord has bestowed on us. Our gratitude is beyond measure, but continually overflowing. We’re hoping our 50th anniversary will be even more rewarding.
In these challenging, unusual times, we all need to work in harmony for the common good. Our prayers go out to each and everyone, whatever and wherever your situation may be.
Social distancing may keep us physically apart, but we are all in this together, and together, we will persevere. Blessings, and thanks to each of you.
Thanksgiving is upon us. This year in the United States, the annual day of thankfulness arrives as early as possible, November 22. Our Canadian friends to the north celebrated their Thanksgiving on October 6.
It is only right and proper to pause as a people to reflect and give thanks. We can be grateful for so many things in our abundant living.
A friend on social media posted a list of items for which he was thankful. Given his life of service to others, I wasn’t surprised at how simple and ordinary the conveniences were that he listed.
Sometimes it’s the familiar, everyday activities and routines that are most meaningful to us. With my friend’s permission, here is his top 10 list of thankfulness:
1. Drinkable tap water
2. Flush toilets
3. Working septic system
4. Washer and dryer
5. Electricity in the home
6. Clothes to wear
7. A house to live in
9. Floors that aren’t dirt
10. Ample food
Keeping things simple helps us think beyond ourselves, consider the plight of others who don’t have even those most basic necessities. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 780 million people globally do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion lack improved sanitation. That’s billion with a B. Think about those numbers for a second.
Food, water, and shelter are the basic essentials for living. My friend set a good example. He recognized just how fortunate we are to be able to go most anywhere in our country and turn the tap and be able to drink the water without worry of contamination. I realize that folks in Flint, MI would differ with this comment. As dangerous as their situation is, I’m glad it is an exception.
And when it comes to waste products, I’ve always respected folks who make their living dealing with the muck of life. Farmers, public utility workers, garbage and waste haulers all have tough jobs. I am thankful for them.
Before we moved from Ohio to Virginia, Neva and I significantly reduced our individual wardrobes. I had too many shoes and too many shirts and pants I seldom wore. Off they went to the thrift store. I’ve been to locales where decent clothing was hard to come by, if only for economic reasons. I, too, am thankful for affordable clothing and footwear.
Housing is indeed another luxury we too often take for granted. Many moons ago I encountered students I had in my classroom who lived in a house with dirt floors. I had a hard time getting over that when we were more than halfway through the 20th century.
Now here we are well into the 21st century, and poverty and inadequate housing are still rampant in our society and globally. Neva and I do what we can to help the homeless through trusted charitable agencies. I am also thankful for the home we share together, and for my gracious wife’s willingness to use her gift of hospitality.
Finally on the thankfulness list is food. Food is a universal need and reason for jubilation. Food takes center stage at Thanksgiving. Roast turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, salad and pies all bedeck Thanksgiving Day tables in Canada and the U.S. alike.
When we say grace over this Thanksgiving Day meal, I’ll also be mindful of those who would love to be gathered there with us. Perhaps we should ensure that happens by inviting others not generally in our family circles.
When you think about it, doesn’t my friend’s list about cover what Thanksgiving is all about? What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Just the other day I remarked to my daughter about how fast the days seem to go. I didn’t have to wonder why.
Logic would dictate that just the opposite would be the case in retirement. Weren’t the golden years meant to be slower, more relaxed than when we were younger?
I thought back to my full-time working life when days started early and ran late. Whether in my first career as an educator for 30 years or in my second gig in marketing, a wide variety of activities filled the days.
Add in the agenda of our active, growing children, community commitments, recreation, organizational meetings, and each day just disappeared. There never seemed to be enough time to complete all that was on my daily plate.
As you might imagine, teaching was demanding. I was bone tired by the time Friday rolled around. When I became an administrator, the routines changed, but my duties often extended long after school had been dismissed both for the day and for the year. Mindless meetings had much to do with that dynamic.
Not much changed in my marketing career. I could always count on surprises that suddenly altered my plans for the day.
When I said goodbye to all of that a couple of years ago, I figured my pace would slow down. Instead, life’s speed seems to have accelerated in retirement.
My daughter concurred with me about the quickness of the days. I had to wonder, however, about the look she gave me. Was it a sympathetic gaze into what the future held for her, or was it a look of astonishment at my declaration?
Perhaps there was a third option, one of appreciation for the assistance her mother and I provide to her family. We were in the heart of the volleyball season, and Nana and I do our parts to help make our daughter’s household run as smoothly as possible.
Carrie is the women’s coach at Eastern Mennonite University, and her husband is the chief financial officer for a rapidly growing start-up company. Professional duties pack their daily schedules.
So we do what we can to help. Nana makes meals, tidies up our house and theirs, and does laundry, shopping, and so much more. I have my honey-do lists.
Sometimes I care for our granddog. Sometimes I pick up a grandchild at school and transport them to another venue. Sometimes I serve as the landscaper, and sometimes I help with homework, even if it is math and in Spanish.
All of this interaction helps make the days disappear one right after the other. Of course, it could be that our energy level at this age isn’t what it was in our younger years. Then we chauffeured our son and daughter from school to soccer and piano practices to church youth group in addition to all of our other responsibilities.
Whatever the reasons for time flying, Nana and I prioritize our time and efforts into doing the tasks at hand. In between, we rest, relax, exercise, have lunch on the porch together, pray and meditate each in our individual way.
In truth, we expected all the busyness. We moved from Ohio’s Amish country to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley for just such assignments. It’s our new life calling.
We didn’t realize how very fast these golden times would go, however. In these autumn days of our lives, the time just seems to evaporate. I for one couldn’t be happier.
A straggly driftwood tree on a lonely beach might seem like a strange symbol with which to say “Happy Thanksgiving.” From my perspective, it’s just right. The stalwart tree, battered by wind and sea, still stands. To me, it serves as a reminder of all those in the world today who have so little, who daily strive to just find food, water, and shelter. Likely, we don’t have to really look too far to find folks who lack at least one of those most precious life necessities.
It struck me that the tree dramatically overshadows the person walking the beach looking for seashells and sharks teeth. Of course, this is due to distance. That perspective, however, serves to highlight just how small we are in relationship to all of the world’s human problems.
My point on this Thanksgiving Day in the United States is for all of us to be extra thankful for all that we have. It’s too easy to take for granted the gathering of friends and family around a bountiful table of your favorite Thanksgiving offerings. As we partake in the meal, let us remember in prayer and in decisive action those who have so little.
On my morning walk, my neighbor’s grandsons exited the house well before 9 a.m. They each had their necessary baseball gear in tow, gloves, bat, and ball.
I called out to them, “Baseball for breakfast, boys?”
They just smiled and ran to their imaginary Major League park, the grass groomed immaculately by their grandfather. I walked on, lifted by the sound of bat striking ball.
Because the local greenhouse was having a sale, more traffic than normal traveled the tiny rural road. Believe me, they were busy.
The chorus from the Song Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Red-headed Woodpeckers helped balance the roar of engines and jake brakes accelerating and descending hills on highways a mile away.
That’s one of the luxuries of living in the country. The sounds of life’s contrasts become all too obvious.
Young Amish girls, all three sisters that I knew, pulled an empty wagon toward the greenhouse.
“Going shopping this morning?” I asked them. A simple “Yes” and a few giggles was their retort. I silently lauded the mother for allowing the girls to pick out the desired plants.
This opportunity gave them responsibility, decision making, and experience in money exchanging, all valuable life skills. It was just one example of raising children in the way they should go.
As I reached Jonas’ farm, his wife walked down the sidewalk to the gravel driveway where her husband waited in the buggy. I waved, and Jonas returned the common greeting.
All the while I strolled and interacted with these good folks, I kept thinking of my friends far away in Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Texas, California, and other foreign countries.
How I wished they could be walking with me to experience this goodness that I take for granted far too often. Instead, some of them were just trying to stay alive, work diligently for peace, help the needy, and recover from massive flooding.
At that point, I embraced them and the day the only ways I knew how. I thought and prayed for them as I walked along on this lovely morning. I hoped it was as divine for them whatever their current situation.
When I passed by the greenhouse on the return trip, there was Jonas again. He was sitting in the buggy while his wife looked for flowers and plants.
I kiddingly cried out to him, too. “Don’t you like shopping, Jonas?”
“I trust my wife,” he said. I bet he helped her plant whatever she bought though. That’s the kind of betrothed devotion I admire.
Down the homestretch, where traffic gets busier and louder, an Indigo Bunting sang from deep within a woodlot. I stepped to the road’s side to let the vehicles zip by, and to listen to this magical sound. I wished the drivers could hear it as well.
When I reached our property, my heart sang in harmony with the birds. My energetic wife was watering a variety of colorful flowers, some she had purchased at the greenhouse sale earlier that morning.
The Eastern Bluebirds flew from the birdhouse I had put up for them. My heart rejoiced all the more. I was glad they had won out over the pesky House Sparrows. A House Wren chattered atop another birdhouse nearby.
I have a lot for which I am grateful. This walk reminded me that each morning I open my eyes I need to say a joy-filled thanks.
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