Gary Horton: Light a candle of thanks in your life


Enough of politics.

Let’s put politics away through this weekend – especially over Thanksgiving dinner, if we expect to keep our families intact and functional.

No, those holiday dinner political fights never work out well. We had one such doozy at an extended-family gathering 14 years ago and the family has remained generationally fractured ever since.

I mean, we’re talking cleaving where once there was love and fondness. All blown away over one gathering gone very bad.

Keen advice here: No politics this Thanksgiving. Nerves remain far too raw and the downside is far too great for any minor gratification of personal pontification.

Chill out. Keep your cool. That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself as this Thursday I enter the enclave of that original mega family fracture mentioned above.

Pivoting – my son Chris and wife Trish have a practice with their two young children at bedtime. Each night, Chris and Trish light a candle at bedside and read a story or two.

Then everyone in the room recounts one thing they’re thankful for from that day and one thing that made them happy. Mom, Dad and the kids each share words of thanks and joy.

They then blow out the candle, give kisses and hugs, and off to dreamy-dream land the kids go with happy thoughts and a great attitude to kick of the next day.

They’re building lives of gratitude and joy from the ground, up. So smart! A graciousness- and joy-centered life!

We miss the thankful part in live too often, even while surrounded by the trappings of our middle-class and upper-middle-class Awesome mecca.

It’s easy to let the traffic congestion, the weather, an adverse headline, an election result, a tiff with a friend or loved one knock us off our balance.

Maybe we should all light effectual candles each night and recount our gratitude before heading into the night in preparation for the next day.

Thankfulness is an act of understanding that we are indeed dependent on those who’ve loved us and given for us and sacrificed for us.

This may be in matters of faith, matters of practicality, and matters of patriotic service. It might be neighbors, fathers, mothers, friends, civic, educational, and social leaders.

Thankfulness is parked right next to humility as it takes a certain measure of humility to recognize that one’s good fortune is generally tied to the giving and caring of so many others.

“She” may have lost, but she was right when she said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and anyone saying anything else is stubbornly dogmatic, refusing to see the contribution of teachers, public servants, family and friends and so many others who build each individual life around us.

Thankfulness recognizes all these contributions by the oh-so-many people in our lives. Looking around, even for those of us who’ve gotten less than we wanted or suffered more than we wished, there are so many who’ve stopped at some time to reach out and care.

Reciprocating, thankfulness is also remembering that we personally have social and moral obligations to reach out beyond our comfort zones to help others.

It’s Wednesday today, and Thanksgiving tomorrow, and we still have a day to light a candle on our tables and pull out paper and list a few of those who’ve helped, blessed, taught, fed, cared and loved us.

Even the gruffest of us can do this – and it’s almost guaranteed to return a smile on our faces.

For me, one such person was William Roskam. We began our friendship with Bill as my insurance agent when I first started my little landscape company 35 years ago.

He saw something in me I didn’t see and he encouraged me to reach far further educationally and socially. He gifted me a subscription to The Economist magazine early on, and I have to admit I struggled to get through the verbiage back then, it being written at a collegiate level from which I was then far removed.

Roskam had a PhD in economics from the University of Redlands, and he encouraged me through my BA and, later, an MBA. “Bill” even helped my daughter get a nearly full-ride scholarship to Redlands.

This guy I first met as an insurance agent completely bent my life’s trajectory. Bill Roskam should have a thousand candles lit for all he gave to me and everyone he knew and for all the vigor with which he lived and loved and cared.

I’ve got a lot of folks like that in my life. Carrie is at the top of that list, and the list could continue until I’d fill the paper and the editors would reject my column.

So, I’ll stop my list right now, but I’ll encourage you to make your own before Thursday – and take that list, and not politics, into your Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll have one for the ages – in all the best of ways.

May you have a happy and gracious Thanksgiving!

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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