THE MARSHALL PLAN: A welcome return of baseball

Culpeper Times columnist Marshall Conner

This year the Thanksgiving feast may be less festive with fewer hugs outside the family, but it will certainly include a larger dose of thankfulness—a different kind than any other year.

My daughter shared a letter from an overseas child we donate to—the basic simplicity of her list brought a pause and tug of our hearts. The list included: a hygiene kit (soap, shampoo, and sanitizer), money for a live chicken, money for a goat and funds for school supplies. Different priorities?

It made us feel guilty of our many blessings.

Prior to this year we were tipsy on freedom—we had large gatherings, we gathered for live music, dined, drank and laughed without masks. Little did we know the fragility of such luxuries.

Politics, pandemic and polarization—are a deadly combination.

Our holiday gatherings usually included all ages. We cherished the stories told by our elders.

This year it will be different.

I travel despite the warnings to a mountaintop in North Carolina with only family—we plan to stay in the woods and along trout streams. We will focus on solitude, family, faith and the smoke of a firepit. I will savor the slow lovely burn of whiskey, perhaps a cigar, along with pit-cooked pig, turkey, and fixings.

I will social distance not out of fear, but out of the need for time to think. I will look inward for my thankfulness this year as I stare at the fire. I am grateful for my family’s health and economic stability. This is a year that continually challenges us to see what we are made of and who will stand firm under pressure.

There is a great love in my heart for Thanksgiving, it is the most genuinely American of holidays.

When Thanksgiving is done well it must include gratitude, faith, family, and tradition in addition to amazing food. Our time on earth is transient my friends, let us not be surly, or overly preoccupied with shopping, football games, our toss-away culture, or our time-robbing smart phones.

Savor your food. Let there be prayers of thankfulness and lots of leaping, colorful trout at the end of our line. Let the chirping birds give us the live music our hearts seek. Let answers from within emerge.

Turn off the television. Remember all who have lived through tougher times and draw strength from their experience. Wisdom is not inherited, it must be communicated - even by Zoom call if necessary, from the glistening eyes of our cherished elders to the youthful minds of our children. In the past, our elders spoke of life’s great tests—we are wading into a few in 2020.

Thankfulness hits me when I see my daughter dance—then when I look at my wife’s eyes watching that same dance. I feel it when I hug my son who has grown into a young man. I feel it when I joke with my youngest brother and talk fishing with my nephew. I find it in the laughter of my nieces.

Thankfulness hits me when I reflect on lifelong friendships, the courage of colleagues during the pandemic and the resilience of my family. I salute my wife for balancing telework, plus the welfare and education of our daughter and son. It also hurts to consider the loss of normalcy for my son’s senior year of high school. Many share this struggle—no games, proms or events.

When people are sick or struggling in hard times, true thankfulness can manifest in the simplest ways with a pain free breath. A test that reveals no infection, peace in a moment of mental chaos, food on the table, forgiveness and love given without conditions.

One can also find smaller moments of thanks while stroking the soft ears of a beloved dog on the way to work. The joy of catching a well-earned fish and releasing it to swim from my grip.

I am thankful for the smiles and thanks I get from all my little friends at Kid Central each day.

I am thankful that you read my words.

Richness comes in many forms, I count myself rich in friendship, family, experiences and community.

I am thankful for a town and county that continues to be an essential part of my life.

I still enjoy every wave and honk as I walk down the street.

Hopefully, each of us can find our own special moments of thankfulness this Thanksgiving.

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