Talking Thanks, Hearing Thanks

In advance of Thanksgiving, lots of websites give “tips” to young people, who perceive themselves as more knowledgeable, smarter, better educated and right, on how to talk to that drunken idiot uncle who is against everything he shouldn’t be and who is destroying everything. There hasn’t been as much of that this year, but what there has been has been far more vicious and furious.

Sit down. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad. This is the year you will shut up and listen to your uncle. He’s not drunk. He’s not mean. He’s not stupid. And most importantly, he may not be wrong.

Yes, the very existence and celebration of Thanksgiving is wrong. I know about the disease brought from Europe, the slaughter of the native Americans, who were called Indians before we became sensitive. And I know all the arguments against Trump, racism, sexism, global warming, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, technophobia, arachnophobia and that tattoos are perfectly reasonable expressions of your deepest emotions that couldn’t possibly be undesirable ten years from now. You’ve told me. You’ve screamed at me. You’ve called me every name you can think of plus some. I heard you.

This year, shut up and listen. This year, don’t do all the talking. This year, remember that the old people at the table wiped your tears when you fell and skinned your knee and your tushie when it needed wiping.* They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t evil. They are your family, your friends, your loved ones.

They were young once, but you were never older. They wanted to change the world, make things better, help people. They don’t have malice in their hearts. What they have is the moderation that comes of experience. Think you, plus experience. Think you, plus the suffering of headaches, nightmares, problems that they’ve protected you from.

You feel badly about the people who don’t have enough to eat? They went to sleep hungry because they didn’t have enough to eat. You only know the experience from reading about it or having some academic who, like you, has never experienced it tell you so. They experienced what you only see from your safe distance. And you’re going to tell them?

They will tolerate you. They will love you anyway, because that’s what they do. They will shake their heads, hopeful that someday you will grow up and realize the foolishness of your smug, self-righteous, youthful arrogance.

You will have children of your own someday, whose tears need to be wiped away, whose tushies need whatever they need, and who will need to be fed every single night or they will go to sleep hungry. You will experience the love you have for your own children, and the need to forego your own dinner so they can eat well.

You will realize what sacrifice means, and why you do so willingly for your posterity. And why you won’t sacrifice your children for the abstract causes that seem so very important when you have no other responsibilities in your life.

Maybe everything is wrong. Maybe we are on the eve of destruction. Maybe this time you’re right. But be thankful that you have these mean old people in your life, the ones who brought you to this place in your life so that you could complain and blame them unmercifully, because maybe everything isn’t wrong.

Listen to them, if for no other reason than they love you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

*Not nearly as much fun as you think.

20 comments on “Talking Thanks, Hearing Thanks

  1. Ray K

    Experience is annoying because you never know you’re wrong until later on. And then it’s embarrassing. I would have taken a bullet for convictions I had in my 20s. Good thing nobody was shooting. Now, as I just hit 40, and my only boy is about to turn 3, I need to go have a chat with my parents to tell them thanks. It’s overwhelming.

    It’s also a good time to say thanks for this blog. It’s always worth reading and never makes me dumber. Thank you.

    1. JAV

      As a now recent dad, I’m thankful for having good role models like my dad and big brother. They gave me a chance to understand the sacrifices that are sometimes required for your kids.

      I’m glad I waited and listened until I was ready. Happy Thanksgiving from this internet rando.

  2. Mike

    Very nice way to start the day.

    I’m the mean ass old bastard uncle, or at least I used to be. Now I’m the wise old sage who knows shit from shinola.

    Well, let’s go work off this hangover by playing a round of golf in the South Florida sun and partake of some hair of the dog.

    Hope you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving.

    PS. Evidently I suck at math because 8×2 doesn’t equal 16 in cyber space.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      You’re probably not a programmer. Most programmers I know find their opinion of their 5-years-ago self ranges from “imbecile” to “What a genius I was — I’ll never be that smart again” depending on which ancient code they’re looking at and what they are trying to do with it. Constant it isn’t.

  3. Patrick Maupin

    Happy thanksgiving, and a year’s worth of tummy rubs for doing what you do for reasons other than tummy rubs. (It was difficult for me to avoid slipping Bill’s second-favorite word into that sentence, but I managed.)

  4. Jim Tyre

    Yes, the very existence and celebration of Thanksgiving is wrong.

    And yet, not having a day the very purpose of which is to stuff one’s face as much as one can, and then some, would be downright un-American. Which is why, to you Scott, your family, your readers and all (at least in the U.S.) I wish a Happy National Alka Seltzer Awareness Day!

  5. Troutwaxer

    I’m over fifty, and my opinion is that you should post this every year… Every year that Donald Trump/Mike Pence aren’t elected to the two highest offices in the land.

    1. SHG Post author

      The only thing worse than a young fool is an old fool. You don’t deserve to read SJ.

      This has nothing to do with whether or not you like or hate Trump.

  6. Dick Taylor

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a better summary of the way I feel about my children and what I’ve learned as I’ve transitioned from child, to young adult, to parent, and now to grandparent. Thanks for this and for so much of your insight this year.

  7. Nigel Declan

    Happy Thanksgiving, Scott! While we may celebrate on a different day up here in the Great White North, there is great benefit to be had in taking more than one day per year to count our blessings and then shut up while we listen to those whose wisdom and experience exceeds our own..

  8. Matthew S Wideman

    Happy Thanksgiving from the Great State of Missouri! Thank you preparing such an interesting and enlightening blog each day.

    When I read this blog, I don’t feel like the world is only filled with zealots and apathetic millennials.

  9. Dragoness Eclectic

    Happy Thanksgiving! Your post reminds me of this old quote, attributed to Mark Twain:

    “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

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