Continuing my quest to find the best Chinese restaurant around, I stole away to have an Asian buffet. It is not Mary Lou’s favorite food, and a lunch when I am by myself gives me the perfect opportunity to try yet another place. It fit into the category of “Good, not Great” as most Chinese restaurants seem to be.
Not wanting to break with long tradition, I opened the fortune cookie and read my fortune. “Take this moment to be grateful for all you have right now” the slip of paper said. I spent the entire afternoon wondering if I happened to receive a fortune perfectly attuned to Thanksgiving week, or if the restaurant had secretly changed all the cookies to have a Thanksgiving message.
It matters not. It is a good message for this season of Thanksgiving. I was struck by the thought that I should focus on the things I have right now. This moment in time. Not the past, nor the future, though those are important. What is it that I should be thankful for RIGHT NOW, on my 68th Thanksgiving Day.
I am thankful that I will have all my children and grandchildren sitting at my table. My Mother will once again make it four generations giving thanks at the same time. That is a blessing with no further explanation required.
I am thankful that my wife of 44 years will join me at that table. On Wednesday we gave our gift to ourselves and our children, a photographer to capture this moment, as the fortune cookie said. I am increasingly appreciative of the logistics of getting everyone together at the same time, much less dressed for a collaborative photo.
The pain of organizing such an event will fade, but the joy evident in the faces of multiple generations captured in that moment in time will endure. Those photos will eventually be enjoyed by generations that are not yet with us.
Speaking of future generations, I am thankful that Mary Lou and I have three nieces and nephews expecting their first child in the next few months: two before the end of the year. The next best thing to being a grandparent is seeing your siblings both become grandparents for the first time. Life is changing forever around the extended Ponder family.
I am thankful for our neighbors and new friends who enrich our lives, just as our old friends continue to do. The older I get the more I realize the value of friends. We celebrated our 50th high school reunion with childhood friends even as we continue to meet friends, many retired like us.
I am thankful to live in a country that is resilient and steadfast, as it navigates the most challenging times of my life. I am thankful for a new church family, and always for my old church family, who may be taking different paths in the future. There are many pathways to the Kingdom of Heaven. We should endeavor to join hands as we make that journey together. After all, the destination is the same.
I am thankful in this moment as I have always been, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those are not flippant words stolen from an old document. My life has been blessed beyond measure. My liberty has enabled me to experience things beyond my wildest dreams. My pursuit of happiness is a continuing effort, I am glad to say. May that pursuit never end.
Finally, it seems trivial when giving thanks, but taking stock of what I must be grateful for in this moment in time, I am thankful to be experiencing the current Auburn environment. From the depths of despair, a man called “Cadillac” grabbed the heart of the Auburn spirit, linked arms with his charges and marched into history.
Sometimes success is not measured in wins or losses, championships, or national titles. For all my long life I have been an Auburn fan, loving the Auburn family much more than any athletic team, whether they were winning or losing. When all was lost, with nothing to play for and no redemption left, Cadillac inspired those young men as he was once inspired.
“First of all, I give all the credit to my Lord, Jesus Christ”, he said in one of his interviews. “I love Auburn, this Auburn family, these young men that I SERVE”, he continued. Cadillac runs up and down the sidelines as the players race for the endzone, just as he did during his own storied career as a player. He embraced the responsibility of a leader. He has an unrestrained love of all things Auburn.
These last items are not trivial, at least not for a member of the Auburn family. In this moment in time, I am thankful to be part of the celebrations of the most inspiring six loss football team in America.
Follow the advice of my fortune cookie. Take this moment to be grateful for all you have right now. Enjoy your family. Cherish your friends. Be thankful for the moment. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org