My No-Shame Thanksgiving Thank-You List

Today across America, families will be waking up to what is arguably the most anticipated and gluttonous holiday of the year. Indeed, Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November, unites Americans of every creed, heritage, race, and walk in a celebration of life, bounty, and opportunity.

For the rest of the world, Thanksgiving is simply the day before Black Friday, when irresistible retail offers and slashed prices bring customers in by the droves. In this international economic slump of sorts, Black Friday has become an adopted phenomenon to drive sales and kickoff the Christmas buying spree.

Whatever the occasion means to you, there are many ways to give thanks, count blessings, and spread good cheer. As children, we were urged to craft bullet lists of things we are thankful for. I suppose this task is equally imperative in adulthood, as we find ourselves drowning in the mundane and losing grasp of what matters most.

So instead of writing a letter to Santa, here’s my heartfelt thank-you list to the Almighty.

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Good health. I think you begin to appreciate the magnitude of health when you hit your late 20s and early 30s. You witness and hear of folks in your parents’ generation passing on. You even know people in your own age group who have tragically lost their lives to illness or disease.

This is also when you start taking periodic blood tests to monitor your HDL/LDL levels and triglycerides. Your capacity to rebound from a sumptuous feast is vastly attenuated compared to a decade before, when what used to work in the way of an 18-hour fast or two hours of power walking no longer sees you even shedding an ounce.

So thank God for good health and the ability to walk on my two feet.

Good food. How many of you detested the Lebanese lentil pilaf called mjadra in your childhood, only to adore it in your more mature years? Guilty as charged. I’m not sure whether it has to do with evolving taste buds, greater food tolerance, or simply the vast miles away from home, but I have a newfound appreciation for (almost) every wholesome stew or dish or vegetable I abhorred as a kid.

I’m grateful for the discovery of new tastes and flavors, particularly when paired with a sublime glass of wine. As Lebanese, we truly are the envy of the world when it comes to a healthy, varied, and delicious cuisine. Trust me, a week away from this country will heighten your respect for traditional home-cooking, zaatar manakish, sweet-as-honey fruit, and ruby red tomatoes with real flavor.

Damn good weather. You have no idea how affective climate can be on physical and mental well-being until you endure a New England winter. Bone-chilling subzero temperatures; caustic winds; snow, sleet, and black ice; and Rudolph-red numb appendages become your day to day for a good four months of the year.

Here in Lebanon, we’re still embracing summer with beautiful sunny days, mild temperatures in the high 60s/low 70s (that’s 20-22C for all you metric masters). Winter is dotted with rainfall and temperatures moderated by the Mediterranean. Our humid climate also staves off dry skin and promotes biological processes like perspiration. Trust me, we’ve got it as good as those Southern Californians and their year-round blue skies.

Shelter. Spending this past weekend in Paris, where I encountered numbers of homeless vagabonds camped on top of metro ventilators spewing hot air, really made me cherish my cozy home. 

As Lebanese, we are not foreign to scarce running water, electricity outages, dimmed lighting on account of generators, and slow-as-snail internet speeds. It’s easy to bicker and bristle at the deficiencies our country thrusts upon us, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re lucky to have a working infrastructure. 

I didn’t say faultless or mainstream or first-world, but hey, nobody’s perfect. We’re resourceful, and we know how to get by on our own devices and cunning. And we pay much less for facilities than our Western counterparts, although we probably make up that shortfall with astronomical phone bills!

Family. In Lebanon, we still have vestiges of the family-centric model that makes our society so emblematic of chaleur. While it is true that globalization and general post-war disillusionment have threatened that very framework which renders Lebanon the object of desire for all expatriated Lebanese, we understand the importance of family, of taking care of our young and elderly, of falling into lively conversation with a total stranger, of putting home life above all else, namely work.

I consider myself lucky to inhabit this environment, and while I may not exactly know when my settlement here will reach its shelf life, I’m grateful for my surrogate family in the absence of my family ten time zones removed. God bless technology, too, which has facilitated video and voice communication at any hour of the day for nil cost.

I once read that the best way to kickstart your day is by mentally enumerating three things you’re grateful for. It boosts your optimism and helps frame a decent day.

We don’t need to wait for Thanksgiving once a year to tally our haves and tilt our heads upward in thanks. We don’t even need to be American to participate in the gratifying duty of looking inward and finding something to be content about.

Just look at our daily Lebanese lexicon of “nechkor Alla” and “kater kheir Alla” (“thank God” and “may the blessings of God abound.”). 

We practically invented Thanksgiving.


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