Susan Canfora: Enjoy Thanksgiving — with gratefulness

I’ve always liked Henry Van Dyke’s simple advice about thankfulness: “Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.”

In those words is a treasure of truth. There are so many blessings.

Thirty years ago I came to Ocean City and rented a ramshackle apartment downtown. My dad, mother and older sister, bless their hearts, regularly made the long trip from Pittsburgh to rewire lights, replace floor tiles and secure door locks while I was at work. That apartment was so tiny I barely had room to hang a sweater, but I had something more valuable, sand in my shoes. I lived at the beach, fulfilling a lifelong dream. That meant more than anything.

I have never tired of the salt air, the brilliant orange sunsets, waves breaking and rushing over rock jetties, T-shirts for sale, French fries soggy with vinegar.

Now, years later, during walks around my neighborhood, I admire red and yellow trees under an autumn sun and wonder how I got so lucky. For a life at the sea, waterways and wildlife, marinas and peaceful rural scenes, nor’easters and occasional snow, all beautiful here on the Shore, I am grateful.

As English author John Ruskin observed, “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

We live in a big-hearted community where friends are easy to make. Fund-raisers to help the ill, victims of fire or flood are abundant. We buy toys, offer rides, search for lost pets with those we know, as well as with strangers. For that altruism, we are appreciative.

City leaders, county officials, care about Salisbury, about Wicomico County, with a depth of sincerity that is admirable. Day by day, to our delight, Salisbury is stirring, awakening, blossoming. There’s a freshness, a kind of excitement that accompanies new birth.

As Christmas approaches, a masterpiece of a tree will again be lit on the Downtown Plaza, a community event of the simplest pleasures – familiar strains of jaunty carols, steaming hot chocolate, children in mittens, a crowd of merry makers who somehow appear a little lighter, less burdened, in the glow of red and green lights. For those moments, we are indebted.

For our careers, co-workers who depend on us, bosses who show appreciation, we are beholden.

I have been a journalist 35 years. It can be demanding. They say, in fact, that one year in the newspaper business is equal to seven years in most other fields. Some of us even have one or two gray hairs. But when we get together for lunch and start exchanging stories, it’s with laughter, passion, a sparkle in our eyes. We are proud of the profession, pleased to be part of it.

Pen in hand, I’ve interviewed thousands of people during the decades. Some of their stories were heartbreaking. Others were ebullient. I’ve come to understand the human condition isn’t complicated. We all want the same things. Fulfillment, safety, somebody to smile at in the morning, to hug good night, all reasons for gratitude.

On Thanksgiving Day we’ll probably eat too much, nap too often, watch football until there’s an impression in the cushions of our favorite chairs. That’s just fine, as long as we do it with gratefulness.

Love. Work. Play. And don’t forget to look up at the stars.

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