In the United States, this is a month to celebrate gratitude
at the dinner table. Those of us fortunate enough to have loving relatives will
gather them around us for the annual feast. Some "families" will be composed of
friends who are kin in spirit if not by birth. There will be many who, having
nobody near and dear at hand, will gather in public places for turkey sandwiches
and the temporary fellowship of football fans. Blessedly, there will also be
people who work holiday shifts and volunteer to serve Thanksgiving meals to
those who would otherwise go hungry, because of poverty or being unable to cook
It is often difficult to relax amid the holiday bustle, and allow gratitude to
enter our beings. Getting ready for Thanksgiving usually means cleaning house,
peeling potatoes, and planning activities for the rest of the four day weekend.
Although we seem to find time for reading the sale advertisements, somehow we
are too pushed for writing G-d a thank you note to be read aloud before the big
Those notes are often assigned, however, to be written and read by children.
Adults, too often, merely listen and applaud with pride, rather the humility
which would be more appropriate. Youngsters are often reminded of how fortunate
they are. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that they are reproached for
a lack of gratitude. This usually has something to do with their failing to be
grateful for Brussels sprouts at dinner whilst children starve in some other
During my girlhood, the children were starving in China, or so I was told. My
plan to deal with them and the hated greenery was simple, and one which was done
by many. A few days after it's implementation, a terrible stench arose from the
closet where a box containing food to be sent where it would be wanted was
stored. Honestly, I could not imagine another child who would be glad to get the
stuff, but I was truly grateful that they existed, because they would give me a
good reason to not consume whatever was unappetizing.
Many years later, there would be a reason for thoughts of gratitude and Brussels
sprouts to coexist in my mind. By then I was the mother of a small boy whose
favorite vegetables were beets and Brussels sprouts. Of course, I was thankful
to be his mom, no matter what he ate. I still am.
That brings me up to the current holiday, which will be one of particular
My boy has just returned from a two week trip Russia for an athletic
competition. For several days, I had been unable to get through to him by phone,
but was not terribly concerned about the non-English-speaking personnel,
figuring he'd call soon. Then, I heard a story on the news about a bus bombing
in Togliatti, where the meet was being held. It is beyond my powers as a writer
to describe the terror I felt. I called the hotel Rus, where the operator would
say, "Nyet, nein, no," then hang up.
G-d bless my Armenian dentist, who speaks Russian, and was kind enough to
immediately make a call, then let me know my son was safe. A few hours later, he
called himself to reassure me that he was fine despite two bombings. Two? How
scared can a mom get? I was to learn more.
The last few days of his journey were spent in Moscow. During that time, there
was a day of demonstrations, one of which included more than two thousand people
marching whilst they shouted, "Death to the Jews." He had been right next to
those marchers, but was safe, and even brought me a calendar from the Moscow
shul he visited immediately afterward to say thanks.
This year, my table will not forget the many reasons for gratitude. It seems
just yesterday that we were gathered around to say Dayenu on another holiday.
Perhaps, we will say it again this November. Any of our blessings would have
been enough, but there are always more.
Thank you, G-d.