“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” – Psalm 107:1
It was the fall of 1970. I was stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia for military training. When Thanksgiving Day rolled around, being too far from home to be with our families on such a brief holiday weekend, several of us made reservations at a quaint restaurant in nearby Williamsburg. It was a lovely place with white tablecloths, traditional Thanksgiving fare, and a quiet, friendly atmosphere. Understandably we were a bit homesick, but instead of making the best of it, cheering each other up and enjoying a nice meal together we began to complain about our predicament of being in the army and away from our families. Soon our dinner party digressed into a pity party.
Strange, isn’t it, how a group of privileged college educated young men with great futures sitting in a lovely restaurant on a beautiful autumn day in one of our nation’s great historic cities would have anything to complain about? Even worse, we were all Reservists whose full time military service would soon be over, after which we would be returning to our homes for good, while many of our army colleagues were going to be assigned to combat zones in Vietnam. Why then were we so ungrateful, indeed resentful, about our circumstance? And of all times, Thanksgiving!
As you can tell, this is not one of my proudest memories, yet one I have played over in my mind a thousand times, wishing I could do it over. If only we had paused long enough to be thankful for the delicious meal, the warm surroundings, the beautiful setting, the friendships we had formed with each other, and our families back home. If only I had had the courage to redirect the attitude around the table to gratitude. If only!
I share this memory not out of shame or regret, however, but out of gratitude. For, as mistakes and failures are often our best teachers, so was this incident for me. Not a Thanksgiving goes by that I don’t think about it, reminding me of the many things I have to be thankful for – my beautiful family, nice home, host of friends, good health, even those old army pals, most of whom I’ve lost touch with. I will be ever grateful for that Thanksgiving back in 1970 for reminding me of all my many blessings. And I “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”