This week we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day here in the USA. Though the date changes year to year, my entire life Thanksgiving Day has fallen just after my birthday, which makes it an even greater season of reflection for me.
A few years ago I shared a story about sitting in a Starbucks and observing an interaction between two men. One was middle-aged and the other quite elderly and feeble. The two men entered the coffee shop together, with the younger man firmly grasping the belt of the older, ensuring the elderly gentleman didn’t fall. Watching the duo order coffee and shuffle over to sit down stirred my curiosity and compassion, so of course (having never met a stranger) I went over to introduce myself.
As it turned out, the younger man was not related to the older man, nor was he employed to assist him. He was simply a friend who knew this dear gentleman wasn’t able to get out much, so had taken it upon himself to take his friend out for coffee every so often so he wouldn’t be completely shut off from the world.
As I reflect on this story and also on the story of my life, I can’t help but feel thankful. I am thankful that in the story of the two men at Starbucks, I could be either man.
Looking back on my life, I am filled with gratitude that the path I have chosen is one of cherishing relationships. Granted, I haven’t always been the best friend, colleague, employee, boss, son, brother, husband, father, etc.—far from it—but I have tried, and I can sincerely and truthfully say that I’ve done my best to show love, compassion, and generosity to the many, many people in my life. So in this way, I see in myself a little bit of the younger man, and I am thankful.
I also am deeply thankful that I have many, many people in my life who I know care for me in return. No matter my self-deprecating humor and poking fun at this “old man” that I’ve become, I know that if it was Dan Nielsen needing a helping hand and firm hold to steady my failing legs, someone would be there. So in this way, I see in myself a little bit of the older man, and I am thankful.