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Boomer Bytes #45: Being Thankful

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

Being Thankful?

By Steve Canipe

Nov. 14, 2014. Come Ye Thankful People Come” go the words of a favorite Thanksgiving song of mine. During the season of Thanksgiving, I have given over to reminiscing about the many things that I am thankful for, and they are many.

I remember back in 2nd grade with Mrs. Ruth Finger at Howard’s Creek Elementary School leading us in this song in class. There was something majestic about the words and the tune. They spoke to me as a 7 year old. I don’t remember exactly why I liked it so much. If I were musically inclined I could probably tell you it had something to do with the temp, the beat, the tone, or any of the other myriad of musical terms I know but don’t know what they mean. I just know I liked it then and I like it now!


Being grateful to people who have helped me along my life journey and have become part of my life experience is one thing for which I am thankful. Being blessed with good and caring teachers (most of them anyway) made my learning pleasurable and rewarding. I’m not sure if other boomers can remember all their teachers or not but I can and do. They had a large impact on my life. My 1st grade teacher, Miss Wise, was the one who taught me to read and that opened so many worlds to me.

Growing up in the rural South in a poor family was not easy. I was fortunate to have parents who, although they were school dropouts, cared very much about education. They lived in a different time than now. My dad had to dropout to help his father farm. My mom had to help take care of the household when she was young. Each of them was really intelligent and could read, write, and do math. If conditions had been different for them, I’ve no doubt that they could have succeeded in college.

Upon graduating with honors from Appalachian, I remember my mom saying that I was so much smarter than she and Dad. I remember telling her, being the good biologist that I was, that all the ability I had was inherited from them. While I might know more facts than she did, I was no smarter just blessed to have parents who saw the value of education and who pushed me to excel. I am thankful for their genetic material I inherited which allowed me to be successful academically.

During the years, I have also had great friends. They have supported me in various endeavors and supplied encouragement when needed. Also we enjoyed doing things together and generally enjoying ourselves. This was true when I was young but continues to be true today. Some of the friendships from my college days remain some of the strongest I’ve had over my life.

In addition to Mom and Dad, my family is a place for which I am thankful. My older sister (now deceased) and my younger brother shared bits of knowledge and wisdom especially when we were all adults. My sister was not always a recipient of my thankfulness. She was nearly 11 years older than me and naturally got to be my babysitter at times. I’m sure I was a pain as any little brother can be; however, I remember one time she tied me to a chair in the kitchen and then contrived to make the sink make noise. She told me that this was a monster coming for me. I think I was probably 4 or 5 at the time!!

But I also remember her driving to check on my wife and baby daughter when we moved into a new house in Matthews, NC and could not get phone service immediately. She was a pessimist and was sure that the furnace had malfunctioned and we were all dead. I was aggravated at the time but in retrospect am thankful she cared enough to drive 50 miles to check on us and our well-being.

My wife, daughter, and son are nearly always constant sources receiving my thankfulness. When our daughter was born, I can remember seeing her for the first time and I thought my heart would burst with happiness – she was mine. Our son, we adopted when he was about 4, and I had the same thankful feeling when I saw him in person for the first time. I was thankful, not only for him, but for the foster homes who had cared for him and for the entire team that helped us with the adoption process.

So many people have come into and out of my life of nearly 69 years. Most of them hold a warm spot in my heart for their positive interactions. They number in the multiple thousands. Some of the people I don’t personally know but who have done things to make my life better and safer. Particularly I am thankful for the men and women who serve in the military; the police and firefighters; the many other service people like EMTs, doctors, nurses, and workers in restaurants and stores. My wife of nearly 43 years is at the top of people for whom I am thankful. My children are also at the top.

As I was writing this article, I truly realized how many people have touched me in a very positive way over the years. Thinking of all these people and how often I have taken their service for granted, I am a bit ashamed that I have been remiss in not telling them that I appreciate them and thanking them for what they do for me and mine.

Perhaps one of the best ways to show my appreciation is to “pay it forward,” since I could never go back and thank all those individuals who have helped me over the years. I could not find them all, even if I tried. But I can honor them and their help, which I received, by helping others. They may not know what influence they had in my life and how grateful I am. If they are reading this article, I hope each person with whom I have interacted knows I do appreciate it.

Doing good things for others is something that is Biblical as well as socially responsible behavior. In Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” I hope that I can live this saying more strongly as I get older and am not so inwardly focused but more outwardly focused. In Islam there are also exhortations to help others. The website Muslim.org has some of these sayings including some from Mohammed and others from the Quran. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) also has sayings about helping others like Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

It is not only the overtly religious writings that entreat us to help others. The Existentialist, Ralph Waldo Emerson exhorted saying “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Anne Frank suggested in her diary that “No one has ever become poor by giving.” To see numerous other thoughts on this idea of giving visit the website.

As we get ready for Thanksgiving, I would encourage all the readers of this column to give thankfulness some serious thought-time. If you can find people who have helped you and for whom you are thankful, tell them. Give forward yourself to ensure that others may in their old age reminisce about being thankful and those who have helped them. While money gifts to charities and the needy are good, sometimes a kind word, a smile, or an open mind is more valuable.

If you have specifics you would share about those individuals who have helped you and for whom you are especially thankful, please mention them or their acts in the space below. Feel free to send me an email as well at boomerbytes@yahoo.com.