Every year at Thanksgiving time, I try to put some deeper meaning into the too easily generalized list of things and people for which I’m thankful. Family, food, health, freedom, soldiers, police, firemen, home and stuffing always top the list, and they’re all worthy of our thanks. However, the list is much longer and includes things and people we often overlook. I am thankful for:
I recently moved to California from New York, and as I open the last few boxes of stuff I should have given away along with all the stuff I did give away, I’m thankful for all the people who move us from point A to point B in our lives. The people who packed, moved and unpacked my stuff worked so very hard, and even though I paid them for their efforts, the money did not wipe away their sweat. I bought them a very nice lunch from a local deli and one of them thanked me in this way: “We usually only get pizza. Thanks!”
Then, as I tried to recover from my own meager exhaustion at the move, the crew, of course, moved on and did the same thing for somebody else. Movers are not just box schleppers. Some movers move us in buses, some move us in trains, and some hand us peanuts in planes while we complain about silly stuff while we’re flying through the air at 30,000 feet in padded chairs and think nothing of it. They all deserve more for their labors, but at the very least they deserve our thanks.
They are sort of like movers, but they fix our cars so we can move ourselves. The automobile is now a fiercely complex gasoline- or battery-powered computer that most folks can’t even begin to imagine fixing on their own. We need them to keep our most important people-moving machines in good working order, and the sad thing is that we don’t accord their profession the respect it deserves.
Blue-collar workers make the world work. White-collar workers do, as well, but their social status and often their incomes are generally higher, and this is not right. Hard, greasy work is not just necessary, it is noble, and I’m thankful for their complicated tuning of my biggest machine.
Waiters and bartenders (like my son Max) also don’t get enough respect, but at least they get tips. Busboys (buspeople?) may get a share of some of the tips, but not always. They clean away our dirty dishes and often wash them in the kitchen. Without them, not a single restaurant could function.
I have a way to judge whether the person I’m eating with in a restaurant is a jerk or a decent soul. It’s a simple test. Do they say thank you to the person bringing them a glass of water and some silverware, or do they treat them as if they were invisible? A simple thank you lets me know the person with whom I’m sharing a meal is able to share some simple respect for the people who are literally at the bottom of the food chain. I always thank busboys, and I thank them on Thanksgiving deeply.
Nursing home caregivers
My friend Tommy (the Rev. Tom Hartman) is cared for by several wonderful men and women (mostly women) in his nursing home. He, like many other guests at the home, is not easily able, and on some days unable, to thank them for their care, their smiles and their warm words of encouragement.
One caregiver, Eulalee Parker, is a strong and saintly young woman who’s given Tommy the best life he can live right now. I thank her every time I visit, and some of Tommy’s friends and I show her more tangible thanks when we can.