“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”— William Arthur Ward (1921—1994), American motivational writer.
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It’s Thanksgiving week by tradition. I try to be thankful every day. I do that sometimes by being grateful for my yesterdays. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Enjoying life as an old dude who doesn’t understand what’s happening in today’s world.
Oh yeah, I know that’s what some younger folks say. I know they’re saying it because I said it when I was their age.
Yesterday, when I was their age, it was a great time to be a kid. People didn’t lock their doors or take the keys out of their cars. Didn’t need to because, for the most part, people were more respectful. Even those who weren’t always honest had at least a little respect for good people.
Back then, many small-town moms weren’t even afraid of leaving kids in the car when they parked in front of the corner grocery store to “run in for a couple of things.” My mom knew anyone who snatched her kids would bring them back before they got around the block. That and you could see the car from the front door.
I’m thankful for growing up when a kid could ride a bicycle anywhere. Even all the way from our house on Redbud Lane on the south side of Mount Pleasant to Raney’s Grocery. That is, if I promised mom I would stay off Jefferson Street, the sleepy two-lane main street through town. But, if I also promised to get off and walk my bike across Jefferson, I could ride all the way to downtown on Saturday for a haircut at Chris Durant’s barber shop and a movie matinee next door at the Martin Theater.
Perhaps as much as anything, my list of thankfulness for my yesterdays includes my parents. They didn’t coddle us. We were loved, taken care of, provided for, and protected. But we were also allowed to fall, to know what it felt like, and learn how to get up and go again. We were allowed to make mistakes so we would know the consequences that came with making them. And just maybe, how to prevent them from happening again. We were allowed to experience life so we could cope with it as adults when they weren’t around.
They also set boundaries and explained the consequences of crossing them. But, with that, we never heard, “That’s all right if you promise not to do it again.” I can still hear dad’s belt popping through the loops on his pants as he reminded me that I had been told what would happen if I did what I had just done.
And mom? She was tough too. “You just wait until your father gets home,” was her form of inflicting fear. The anticipation of waiting was excruciating. I begged mom to spank me once because I knew whatever she could dish out would be much less than dad would deliver.
I’m also thankful every day for my mother’s practice of cutting me no slack about going to church with her. Not just as a kid but for as long as I lived in her house. There was no Saturday night curfew, but there was also no question about whether I wanted to attend Sunday services with her. None.
Hard to imagine why back then, she insisted on such punctuality. Learning about a creator whose legacy teaches love and respect for yourself and each other. How to find the good in yourself and in others. Recognizing respect in following Authority. That expounds the value of living a life focused on giving, helping, and nurturing. How to “bloom where you’re planted.” The rewards for living a life seeking those values.
I’m thankful every day for blessings, family, and for friends. Granted, our country is not the same it was when doors remained unlocked, and kids waited in cars. But it’s still the best place to live despite problems rooted in … what was it we were just talking about? Oh yeah, respect. For ourselves, others, and authority.
I’m still thankful every day for the upbringing my parents gave me during my yesterdays, it gotten me to where I am today. Grateful for common days transformed into thanksgiving, thankful for every blessing in life. And for the privilege of becoming an old dude who laughs every time he knows someone half his age is thinking, “He doesn’t understand what’s going on in today’s world.”
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.
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