Feeling Thankful—by Jamie Levine
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday; the moment autumn rolled around, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. It was a food and family-filled celebration, and I immersed myself in delicious carbs and company all day long. Over the years, however, my family has diminished in size, and tensions have mounted between many of my relatives who do remain. My mother has gotten older and more arthritic, and now has a much harder time preparing and cooking for the feast; but rather than give up her hold on the holiday, she continues to take on the duties of making dinner—while complaining constantly throughout the entire process. Lately, Thanksgiving has become a bit stressful for me.
This year, however, despite a small bout of family feuding which I determinedly did not involve myself in, dinner was rather peaceful. I even enjoyed myself. And I can thank an 88-year-old woman for that. Many months ago, Jayda and I befriended this vibrant woman at my gym—and this past week, she confided in me about some hardships she was experiencing, and I realized how lonely she was beneath her friendly facade. The morning of Thanksgiving, I chatted with her at the gym and gave her a hug, and impulsively asked her if she had any plans, and if not, “if she would please come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner.” She hesitated—but agreed. My daughter—who adores her—was happy—and my mother, who had been lamenting over the small number of guests she was having—was thrilled. Most importantly, my 88-year-old friend had such a nice evening she didn’t stop talking about it for days. And she didn’t even eat my mother’s turkey (I found out after she sat down at the table that she was a vegetarian!).
When I dropped my friend off at her house that evening, and tucked a care package of pumpkin bread into her purse, she teared up and embraced me, and told me, “You have such a wonderful family.” I smiled and nodded, and she added that I was wonderful too, and deserved them. And I responded that I was lucky; and I am. I also realized how grateful I should be. Because while I do appreciate all the strong, supportive friends and family I have, in these stressful times, I often dwell on the hardships I’m experiencing, instead. However, while work and school and single motherhood can be exhausting, I know I wouldn’t change my life for anything. From my affectionate, adoring daughter to my extraordinary, encouraging friends, I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people in the world and my life is filled with love. As stressed as I am, I know I have a bright future ahead of me…and I’m getting closer and closer to reaching it every day. On Thanksgiving—and every day—I should be thankful for all that I have—including my 88-year-old friend. And I am. I truly am.