A pre-Thanksgiving “Tofurkey Trot” charity run on Randall’s Island was overcast and blustery, with high winds making logistics a difficulty. Opening the back door of the van sent various pieces of paper, old candy wrappers and other flotsam and jetsam of family life spraying across a parking area, prompting the awkward conscientious shuffle to step on and pick up every piece of litter before they could blow away and make us the city’s environmental villains of the day.
My wife and I arrived with our three children just as the event was getting off to a start. We got our numbers and soon were off, trailing most of the runners and walkers with our two strollers.
This particular Tofurkey Trot was cosponsored by My Dog is My Home, a charity that helps homeless people find shelter that will accommodate their pets and was vegan themed. The organizers were friends who had a fun vegan wedding at an upstate animal sanctuary earlier this year. It was an example of how life can be interesting and varied at all times: the day before the run I had spent in the woods hunting deer, now I was at a vegan event. I didn’t even see a deer—maybe I had been hexed by some vegan mojo—but free doughnuts from Cinnamon Snail makes for terrific comfort food.
My wife and I had our goal to make sure we were not last, and that meant we had to jog a bit now and again while pushing strollers. We were able to stop and chat with friends who were either running or manning the doughnut and water stations at the 5k. It was a chance to see Manhattan from Randall’s Island, a place we rarely get to visit. The run took us over a small footbridge called “Little Hell Gate Bridge” to part of Ward’s Island, which is now connected to Randall’s Island by landfill. The run went past the grounds of the Kirby Psychiatric Center, a state hospital for the criminally insane.
We feasted on doughnuts and got to visit with friends, and it was a great way to start the day. We even won a gift certificate for a Tofurkey meal in a raffle, which we sent to a vegan friend. It was a satisfying start the Thanksgiving season.
Gratitude is a helpful practice and it is good to keep a running list all through the year of things you are thankful for. Refer to that list when you are going through some dark times, and it will help you to see things through with a more balanced view.
Here are some things I am thankful for in 2017:
A wife who loves me and our children and who has infinitely more patience than I do. She signed us up for the Tofurkey Trot and has made me a better person.
Three great children who make me proud every day.
A wonderful extended family that has been there for me in the worst of times.
Great friends who represent the best of what friends have to offer.
The creative urge. Losing the will to create means losing the will to live, because life without literature, art, and music would not be worth living. No matter how burdened with work or other obligations I may be, that spark stays alive somehow. For that I remain grateful.
A roof over my head, a job, and my general health.
I’m thankful that I’ll spend this Thanksgiving having a meal with family and enjoying more time with my wife and children than I normally would get on a Thursday.
Thanksgiving is coming up and there are a lot of things to be thankful for. It is easy to look at the state of the world and feel that our generation got the short end of the stick and that things were better years ago. The human species has a habit of romanticizing the past to a fault. The present always looks lacking to Americans in general and New Yorkers in particular because we are an ambitious people who always see better possibilities.
But if we are living safely with food in our stomachs and a roof over our head, we should be thankful; there are a few billion people who would gladly trade places with us.
Here are some things I am particularly thankful for:
Family. I am lucky to not only have a wife and kids who love me but numerous other relatives and step-relatives who love me also. I can tap into the wisdom of several aunts and uncles, cousins, and my amazing grandmother, the indomitable matriarch who is our rock. My family has demonstrated time and again how to persevere through hardship and loss with grace and strength. I am lucky to be of such strong blood.
Health. No doubt my steady diet of weekend egg sandwiches has left me the worse for wear and my back is a scramble of slipped disks and strained muscles, but compared to many people, I am in very good health. I know too many family and friends who have suffered bad setbacks to take my health for granted.
Employment. While I have known great unemployment and underemployment in my time, I am currently gainfully employed at a stable company. Having worked as a journalist for nearly 15 years, I crossed over “to the dark side” of public relations last year. I landed in a good place with smart, friendly co-workers; a lot of people can’t say that.
Creative Ambition. One of the reasons I am lucky to have the family I do is that I’ve inherited my family’s desire to create. My family is full of writers, musicians, actors and more and I am honored to be among them. Being creative gives you a constant reason to live even when all else looks dismal.
America. While the American Empire is deep into its twilight, the America I grew up with and love is very much alive though casting a cautious eye towards the future. America is the greatest nation on Earth because it is my country. We have a lot of problems, but we have a lot of freedom that many people never see.
New York City. No city inspires as much simultaneous love and hatred from its inhabitants as New York. There is no other place on Earth that is constantly rewriting its own mythology and acts such a magnet for creativity and ambition. New York will outlive us all. As much as we hate to see New York change, we know it will never die as long as the Earth remains intact.
Thanksgiving is a great holiday because anyone can participate in it. It’s a secular tradition that encourages thankfulness and humility.
No matter what your background or thoughts about the country’s origins, everyone has something to be Thankful for. Even if your life is miserable and you’re having tough times, someone somewhere has helped you and your own mind will be better off if you show gratitude.
But Thanksgiving is also the kickoff of the holiday season (“holiday” meaning Christmas and/or Chanukah), and as such it has been accompanied in recent decades by the ever-present “Black Friday” when the Christmas-fueled gluttony of commerce commences.
Every year we are treated to fresh news footage of frenzied shoppers trampling one another or rioting over merchandise as stores open their doors on “Black Friday,” the first full day of holiday season shopping. Actual deaths by trampling at some of these Black Friday events haven’t dissuaded people from standing in line for hours for the chance to surrender their dignity in return for a discount on merchandise. It would be interesting to see what percentage of fanatical Black Friday shoppers actually spend the bulk of that day’s shopping money on themselves rather than on gifts for others.
In my extended years of post-college underemployment, I worked for a time as a sales associate in a suburban department store. I remember having to wake up at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving because the store opened at 6 a.m. instead of the usual 9:30 or 10 a.m. I remember pulling my beat-up van into the parking lot at 5:30 a.m. and seeing people already standing outside the doors waiting. I remember hating each of them instantly, and finding them among most pathetic forms of life on Earth. You could always count on these early shoppers to be absolute jerks as well. They’ll argue loudly over five cents and treat you like garbage.
It is my ambition every year now to do all of my Christmas shopping online. I don’t want to have to enter a single store or post office to buy or send Christmas gifts.
But the popularity of Black Friday events has not waned.
And recently things took a deeper step into the ridiculous as some stores have been opening their Black Friday sales on Thursday, Thanksgiving.
That’s been the tipping point for a lot of people. Watching Neanderthal shoppers trample people to death or claw each other’s eyes out for a flat-screen television didn’t offend enough people for a backlash, but being open on Thanksgiving has.
And it’s right that it should. Those people who stand for hours in the cold waiting for the Friday sales to open want to be there, but asking store employees to come in on Thanksgiving is beyond a consumer’s capacity for rapacious cruelty.
People are urging one another not to reward companies that open on Thanksgiving. Some stores are even taking advantage of the backlash and advertising that they are NOT open on Thanksgiving.
There are some places that should be open on Thanksgiving. We don’t mind police and firefighters having to work; we need them all the time. We don’t need to buy televisions on Thanksgiving.
Maybe the outrage generated by attempts at having a Black Thursday will turn the tide against holiday consumer culture. If it makes even a modest dent, that would be one more thing to be thankful for.