Having a little trouble figuring out what is worth being grateful for this year? Although current events as well as work or family drama (or really bad parkers; thank you for the new bruises) can sometimes make us more than a little cranky, there is still much to be found for which one can be thankful.
Arkansas has often been accused of being backward (something native Arkies tend to scowl at, while realizing there are people and parts of government here that are backward), but sometimes it’s ahead of the game. We can take credit not only for Johnny Cash and the only active diamond mine in the nation, but also for the first Walmart (1962 in Rogers), and the first woman elected, first in a special election, and then to a full term as a U.S. senator, having first been appointed after her husband’s death (Hattie Caraway of Jonesboro, who was also the first woman to preside over the Senate), among many other things.
We can also say that we were, it seems, the first state in the South to celebrate Thanksgiving officially, which was mostly a New England holiday. In 1846, writer Sarah Josepha Hale of New Hampshire (most famous for “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) began campaigning for a national holiday in letters and op-ed pieces in hopes that it might unify the country.
While it would be almost 20 years before the national holiday became official, Arkansas Gov. Thomas Stevenson Drew issued Arkansas’ first proclamation in October 1847, according to the Department of Arkansas Heritage website. That proclamation declared Dec. 9, 1847, as Thanksgiving for the “blessings of the most bountiful and diversified character among the people of this state, in the abundance of the various agricultural crops, the universal prosperity of our people and their unexampled good health.” Later governors did the same, using various dates in December, and President Abraham Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, like Drew citing many of Hale’s arguments.
There are other things for which we should give thanks, including public libraries and their supporters. Says Nealus Wheeler of Mountain Home, president of the Baxter County Friends of the Library: “Arkansawyers should be thankful for the Friends of the Library (FOL) around our state. You, your library and your county benefit from the activities of your FOL. FOLs provide funding for your libraries. They raise funds from book sales, auctions and other creative venues. These activities need people willing to devote their time and their financial support to keep FOLs viable.
“Viability will remain a strength if FOLs receive your participation. Participation needs to be a multigenerational effort. Viability can no longer be sustained by senior citizens. FOLs need you to think of how you can support them. FOLs ask each sector of our population to review how it can keep us viable. Socially minded youth could find time in their schedules to work with their FOL. Young adults could find time in their schedule to volunteer for the library activities sponsored by the FOL.”
David Kelley of Louann is grateful for family: “I am thankful that my father has me to take care of him. He is 90 and in failing health but is still able to live at home where I can care for him. His wife of 65 years died in February after a two-year battle with cancer, and he continues on admirably. I am thankful that Mom and Pop had those years together and instilled in me the supreme importance of family. I am thankful my dad taught me all about grilling and football, and how he and I have gotten to enjoy many wonderful afternoons of tailgating at Razorback and Kansas City Chiefs games. I am thankful for the wonderful family and friends who have provided us such incredible love and support these past couple of years; what they have shown and done cannot be put into words.
“I am thankful that I am here to express this, as I had my own cancer experience nine years ago. I guess I am simply thankful.”
Kelley has the right attitude. Even after we lose loved ones, we can be grateful for the time we had with them and the lessons they taught us. I know I’ll always carry my mom in my heart, and though she’s no longer here to give me a laugh and a good talking-to when I need it (and sometimes I need it a lot), I’m forever thankful that she was my mom. My oldest brother and I recently had a long conversation about her and our grandparents, and the consensus was that we lucked out.
Their humor, wisdom and delicious cooking weren’t the only reasons to be grateful for them, or even the most important. I think that is probably this reason: Who else would put up with us?
Seriously … have you met us?
One more thing we can be thankful for, and not just because it provides me a paycheck, is the survival of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Last week we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Arkansas Gazette. While that paper is not with us in its original form anymore, it is certainly with us in spirit.
Had the Arkansas Democrat not won the Little Rock Newspaper War in 1991, the Democrat-Gazette would not be what it is today. At the celebration banquet last week, former Gazette editorial editor Ernie Dumas, a legend in the business, thanked our publisher for having won against Gannett, which publishes USA Today and other newspapers (whose sites look pretty much the same), and former president and Arkansas governor Bill Clinton noted that had the Democrat not won, there would probably be movie reviews on the front page. That would be the least of the indignities heaped on the Old Gray Lady.
Whether in print or digital form, local/state news is something that needs to survive, lest we become even further divided. When we can no longer agree on what reality is, we’ll be lost; losing that local connection will get us there faster. Be thankful that hasn’t happened yet. Well, not quite, anyway.