Tis the season to count one's blessings
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
California There is no survey, as far as I know, to estimate the value of a happy family, workplace, school environment, social life, and the list may go on that helps to keep a country or nation vibrant and strong with values that create a better world for all.
Money, for sure, is a factor and according to Paul Krugman, the New York Times, after adjustment for inflation, "the income of the top 1 percent rose 31 percent from 2009 to 2012, but the real income of the bottom 40 percent fell 6 percent."
Meanwhile, how many of us can remember our last belly laugh that reduced us to tears? Many may remember the comic Jack Benny who could make us laugh by just walking on stage with his violin, Bob Hope and his double-edged jokes, or Carol Burnett's hilarious skits. There were so many talented comedians who were never vulgar even though politically correct had not been coined.
Lloyd Bridges, in a TV play dealing with racial problems, got so caught up in the role he swore a profane word. The next day he and the network both apologized to the viewers for the foul up.
Now with the season for remembering to give thanks close at hand, maybe an old German proverb should be remembered. "When a man is happy he does not hear the clock strike." And even in politics sincere laughter would be welcome.
A story is told about Ronald Reagan attending a reception for House Speaker Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, on his 70th birthday, where he offered this toast to the man he often disagreed with. "Tip if I had a ticket to heaven and you didn't have one too, I'd sell mine and go to hell with you."
In Rafe Esquith's "Real Talk for Real Teachers" he does not approve of a "fear-based" classroom that stresses young teachers should not let students see them smile until Christmas. And Gilbert Highet also recalls "A very wise teacher once said: 'I consider a day's teaching is wasted if we do not have one hearty laugh."
In 36 years in the classroom, I experienced only one class that did not laugh. When Thanksgiving was in sight, I would ask students to write five things they got a bang out of in their lives and were thankful for. This class was almost a blank and there was no mention of home or family.
Maybe, a better question would have been to list five things the Pilgrims could count on as blessings when they finally arrived on land at Plymouth on Dec. 21, 1620. With no friends to welcome "their weatherbeated bodies" and no homes ready to face the winter, their only early mainstays were the beaver and Bible. By 1621, only 44 of the 102 who arrived were alive, but none returned to the old world when the ship sailed. William Bradford said "It is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage." They were a people both morally and spiritually sound, a blessing well to remember all year round.
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