Michelle Martin

Thanks for what?

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Looked at one way — OK, a lot of ways — this has been a pretty rough year.

My mother-in-law died just over a year ago, which was tough in itself and meant a lot of time dealing with all the legal and practical issues that come with a death in the family. My husband just found out he is in line for some pretty extensive dental work. Teresa is in the midst of the pressure cooker that is high school admissions for Chicago eighth graders.

Oh, and the drainpipe leading from the kitchen sink into the basement is broken.

It’s always something.

Even putting those admittedly minor, or at least expected, issues a side, scientists are telling us that the earth is warming faster than expected, and time is running out to do something about it; the U.S. seems mired in a kind of polarization that has not only ended friendships and divided families but seems to make it difficult for some people to recognize those on the other side of the divide as human; and there are two wars in historically precarious regions of the world. There is a lot to worry about.

But we are approaching Thanksgiving, which will lead soon enough to Advent and then to Christmas (never mind that most stores moved on to Christmas before the Halloween candy was off the shelves). As the daylight diminishes and the world around us becomes darker, we are called to focus on the light.

For me and for our family, at least, there is so much light.

We are all relatively healthy and able to take care of ourselves, chronic diseases and dental issues notwithstanding. In our nuclear family, the five of us remain close. We also have close ties to extended family; I’m extremely grateful for my sister-in-law who swears that she enjoys making Thanksgiving dinner each year, and our only responsibility is to show up, with perhaps some soda or a package of dinner rolls.

I’m grateful that we are able to keep a dog, and grateful that the dog we have now, the one who saw us through the COVID-19 pandemic, is so affectionate (“clingy” might be more accurate) and entertaining.

I’m grateful that Tony and I are employed, and have health insurance and a roof over our heads and a choice of four grocery stores within a mile walk. Even though we have cars to drive if it’s a big trip.

More than that, I’m grateful for the beauty God has seen fit to give us in the world around us: in the fingernail sliver of a new moon hanging above the western horizon an hour after sunset, in the sparkle of sunlight on wavelets in the lake, in the blaze of scarlet and gold autumn leaves against a deep blue sky, even if the drama of a flash of lightning and clap of thunder.

I’m also grateful for the beauty of the people I encounter every day: the crossing guards who greet children with a friendly good morning while keeping them safe, the drivers who stop for pedestrians even to let another car in, the children playing at the park and the parents and caregivers who watch over them.

It’s a gorgeous world that we live in, if only we take the time to notice.



  • family life