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David Reynolds: Thanksgiving 2010

Tomorrow is truly an American holiday. It is one of the few which remains faithful to its origins. The Pilgrims started something that, hopefully, we will never finish.

Thanksgiving 2010 will be like the hundreds of other Thanksgiving’s before. It is always a peaceful day. So, peace is on my “Thank You” list. However, it is not first. Freedom always comes first.

And what about those days before tomorrow? Did you know that “9/11” happened 3,363 days ago? That’s a big number. A bigger and better number than the one we use for emergencies.

How did you live each one of those days? As each was your last? A few did. They have no regrets. I did not. So I have a few regrets, but too few to mention.

Besides freedom and peace what am I most grateful for? That’s easy. Each morning not finding my name on the obituary page. Too many departed friends have left to go to on to another paradise. Yet, I have never received a report back. Is it because they can’t tell the difference?

Yes, death is a reminder of how good it is to be alive. But being alive is not always easy. I have been working at it for 27,549 days. One day I will get the hang of it. In the meantime I am enjoying the work. I trust that you are, too.

One way to look at life is to think of the start of each day as “third and long.” The odds may be against you, but you are still in the game. And being in the game is all that counts.

Another way to figure out this greatest of all games is to consider life as a glorious struggle, an investment that pays dividends. That means you never sell yourself short. Or your country.

This corner of our great nation suits me just fine. I can better appreciate the beauty of the Great Valley of Virginia having come from the coalfields of Pennsylvania.

However, don’t do what I just did. When you mention our valley remember others live elsewhere. It is hard to compare any two spots on the map when the perspective of any spot changes the moment you leave. Nonetheless, we believe that this corner of the earth is special, from the back roads of Rockbridge where we learn to wave to I-81 where we learn to pray.

Yet it is not the land, but the people, which make us special. Sure they slip up sometimes. They put that toy next to their ear. Still they have time to look up from their cellphones and send a smile instead of a text message. I am grateful for small blessings.

I have another beef: The annual Thanksgiving dinner at Washington & Lee University got bumped. It got pushed back a week. On its traditional date no turkey was served. Instead there was a Mideast dinner with all the trimmings. It was in honor of Eid ul Adha, a holiday in Muslin countries. (More on this next month.)

Back to more pleasant business. People here don’t judge your past because they don’t know it. I could have robbed banks in my previous life and no one would know. Or care. However, I did not. I did something worse. I helped to spend your money. Now in my current life I can’t miss a Rotary meeting without the whole club knowing it. I like it both ways.

Then there are those among us who have proven that Thomas Wolf was wrong. You can go home again. Take Charlie, for example. Earlier this month he came home. Back to Buena Vista. A few hundred of his closest friends were there to greet him. For ninety minutes, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies rambled and told stories. They loved it. And him. The talk was not about baseball, except to the extent that baseball imitates life. It was not one of those phony inspirational talks staged in big city hotel ballrooms. This was real. And so was Charlie. He came from a real town. After his talk there was only one question: How can one successfully manage and gain respect from twenty-five young prima donna, talented multimillionaires without having Charlie Manuel’s wisdom and rapport?

It is all amazing. How sweet it is. That’s it for Thanksgiving 2010. Before you sit down for dinner tomorrow, think of everybody you have ever loved, whether they are seated at the table or not. Remember their faces. You will have seen the face of God. As for those who say that God is dead, consider what President Eisenhower once said, “How can he be when I just spoke with him this morning.”

Column by David Reynolds