Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is extra special to me this year. It’s been a very long time since the true meaning of the holiday really hit me.

And the irony couldn’t be greater. You wouldn’t think a guy who got laid off in the middle of a nasty economy and whose lease is about to run out would have much to be thankful for. But the lines of Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessing Instead of Sheep” have been rocketing around my brain for the past two months.

When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

It’s overly sentimental and ridiculously simplistic. But it works.

So this year, I’m thankful for the amazing things I have. To whit:

Family and Friends: A lot of people have been looking out for me. They ask after me. They occasionally take me out to eat. Most importantly, they provide companionship. They make sure I am okay. No amount of money on Earth can buy people’s care, and I’ve had it for a very long time.

 Children: Over the past year, I have really found joy in being a positive role model for young people. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to teach in Theatre Lawrence’s “School’s Out, Theatre’s In” and Junior Acting Company programs. I get to help elementary school kids learn the joy of performing arts and “come out of their shells.” I like helping them reach their potential.

Likewise, I get to play Mary Poppins for my girlfriend’s kids and their friends. When there’s a football or basketball game they want to go to, or a concert at KU’s Lied Center, they call on me to chaperone them. I get to take them cool places while serving as an example for how one behaves at such events. I fill in information gaps about the things they’re seeing, so they can put it in context. Most importantly, I give them someone to look up to.

Even my daughter, with whom I remain estranged, has shown kindness and a willingness to intereact. Not every visit is a good one, but I do enjoy spending time with her.

The eBook Revolution: I am a published author, something I’ve been trying to become my entire life. That’s possible, because e-readers and eBooks changed not only how books are published but how they’re read. I might not be in the position I’m in now even a year ago. And even if I was, I’ve benefited from the advice of the people who got there first. Everything has come together to give me a market and an opportunity to make my dreams come true.

Getting Laid Off: This is easily the strangest thing I’m thanking for, but I really do have to give thanks to my former employer. I’d been so obsessed with getting the right job and doing well at the job I had and making the right amount of money and getting out of debt, I had lost all sight of what I really wanted — to write for me.

Sometimes, you need a total disaster to break you out of a bad situation and give you a new opportunity. There are only so many jobs you can apply for in a day, and there are only so many opportunities in a weak economy. All the extra time put me in a position to launch my career as an author. It may not ever pay well enough to be my sole or primary source of income. But I get to try. And I keep loooking for other jobs too, but without getting laid off, I might not have come to all the conclusions and put in all the work I did. I likely wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t gotten laid off.

So this Thanksgiving I am happier than I’ve been in a long time. I have a clearer understanding of my blessings than I have had in many years. I have a lot to be thankful for.

I hope you have as many good things in your life this holiday season too. I hope Thanksgiving finds you with more things to celebrate than you can name. And remember Berlin’s words:

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

Happy Thanksgiving.

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