There is no doubt this will be a different Thanksgiving Day for my family. Like so many others in our community, we are trying to find our new normal. Thanks to Hurricane Michael we are celebrating away from our home this year.
There is too much glass in the yard to have grandchildren running around outside. Our pool is completely dry and I am afraid that it would be too easy for a kid to step off into the empty cement pond, as Granny Clampett would say.
We will have our big Thanksgiving Dinner in Auburn, where the meal will be served at the Marriott Grand National. It isn’t that we don’t want to cook for everyone. There is just not enough room for everyone to sit or sleep for that matter.
Nevertheless, we are determined to celebrate this favorite holiday with a renewed sense of thankfulness. Sometimes you have to emerge from the darkness to appreciate the light.
I am thankful that our community survived the strongest hurricane in Georgia’s history. It may have destroyed hundreds of thousands of trees and thousands of homes, but it did not break our spirit. We will come back, sometimes more slowly than we would like, but come back we will.
I am thankful for those neighbors and friends who reached out to help their fellow man in our community when they needed it most. I am even more thankful for those who reached out that had no connection to this community. Helping their fellow man even when they knew them not. Now that is someone to be thankful for.
I am thankful for those who served their community. We have a new pedestal in town and at the top are linemen, policemen, firemen, EMTs, 911 operators, and so many more. The list could fill this paper and still not be complete. We will not forget you, even if we never knew you.
I am thankful for my church, and the churches of every size, denomination and faith in this community that responded to their biblical call to feed the hungry and help the needy. I am thankful for those other faith based communities that responded from around the country without seeking any recognition.
I am thankful for things I had begun to take for granted. Hot showers and cold milk. Electricity and air conditioning. Generators, bottled water, and tarps. Lots and lots of tarps.
I am thankful for things I have re-discovered thanks to my new landscape. A widely expanded skyline showing the night stars and the transcending moon more clearly than I can remember. Sunrises and sunsets, more spectacularly brilliant than ever before.
I am thankful to my great-grandparents that planted trees that I have enjoyed until Michael took them away. I hope my own great-grandchildren will one day enjoy the trees that Mary Lou and I will now plant.
I am thankful for my employees that struggled to keep our restaurants open even when they had their own personal issues. I cannot say enough about the challenges they have faced in the past few weeks and how they have risen to those challenges.
Mostly, I am thankful that my family survived this historic and horrific storm. Thankful that four generations will join together and give thanks for the many blessings we have received this year. Perhaps they are a little different from previous years, but that is the way life is. It is a journey and this year has been quite a ride.
And finally, I am thankful to call you neighbors and friends. God gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the very best you have to offer and it was inspiring. A Thanksgiving like no other, but a special Thanksgiving indeed.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org