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Terry Woster: Being satisfied with the things you have epitomizes Thanksgiving

More than 30 years ago, I landed a bit part in a local theater production of "Annie, Get Your Gun.'' In many ways, it's a dreadful musical. It does, however, have a song that seems right for Thanksgiving, even if the holiday is never mentioned in...

Terry Woster

More than 30 years ago, I landed a bit part in a local theater production of “Annie, Get Your Gun.’’

In many ways, it’s a dreadful musical. It does, however, have a song that seems right for Thanksgiving, even if the holiday is never mentioned in the lyrics. The song came to mind this morning as I thought about the approaching holiday for giving thanks. The title of the song is “I Got the Sun in the Morning.’’ Irving Berlin wrote it, and it begins like this:
“Taking stock of what I have and what I haven’t, what do I find? The things I got will keep me satisfied.’’
A bit rough for someone hung up on perfect grammar, but the Thanksgiving sentiment is clear. It is Berlin’s way of suggesting we be grateful for what we have, because, “And with the sun in the morning and the moon in the evening, I’m all right.’’ That’s too simple and naïve for words, except at this time of year. We’re encouraged to focus on what we have, not what we haven’t.
Berlin wrote another, immensely popular, song about being thankful. It’s the one Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang in 1954, and it suggests that when we’re worried and we can’t sleep, we should count our blessings instead of sheep. The song appeared in the movie “White Christmas,’’ but the sentiment is all Thanksgiving.
I’m trying to count blessings as I wait for family to arrive today. As my kids will tell anyone who asks, I’m a pessimist. I focus often on what the negatives instead of on the people and things in my generally wonderful life. (Yeah, I know, Jimmy Stewart.) I also tend to be a cynic (I suppose that’s the life-long news reporter in me, questioning anything that looks too good to be true.) I don’t gush about blessings and all that.
But I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time visiting in a nursing home (that’s what we used to call them in the old days, anyway) the last few months. It’s an experience that opens a guy’s eyes to many things. Much there is of sadness in such a place as many residents approach end of life. Much there is, though, of blessings, of things for which to be thankful.
On a personal level, I leave the center thankful simply because I can stand up and walk away on my own, go to a restaurant and have a meal on my own, drive home on my own. Such basic activities are routine, yet the residents I leave at the end of a visit must envy me terribly.
Beyond myself, I’m thankful there exist in this world people who are willing to work in the nursing homes and assisted-living centers. It’s challenging, demanding work, and it must be draining by the end of a shift. Even so, nearly all of the staff members I see are upbeat with the residents and friendly with the visitors. They treat the residents with respect and a gentleness I know I could not manage hour after hour, room after room, meal after meal.
Beyond that center, I’m thankful there exist in this world people who are willing to work in all the other areas of health care -- nurses, aides, doctors, the many others who focus on the needs of the rest of us. Nancy’s entire professional life has been in nursing. I’ve seen how she sacrifices herself for complete strangers and how she makes strangers feel that they aren’t alone. That’s a tremendous talent, and nurses I’ve known just have it. So do the staff members I mentioned above at the nursing homes and assisted-living centers.
I plan to sit down tomorrow at a big table laden with food. I’ll have family members all around, and we’ll enjoy our time together. In nursing homes and hospitals everywhere, other people are drawing the Thanksgiving Day shift, spending their holiday with people who need them.
I hope I remember to give thanks for those people -- and for the women and men on duty in the military, too.
Indeed, “the things I got will keep me satisfied.’’

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