Plenty of family, friends to be thankful for
I've had many weeks to reflect since we experienced the solar eclipse. I was recovering from an illness, tucked in to bed as I viewed the darkening sky from my bedroom window and watched the coverage on TV. That moment I viewed the sky was awe inspiring. It seemed the universe was showing us how small we are — all of us on planet Earth fighting, hating and playing nuclear chicken.
I was humbled by the knowledge that we cannot exist without the sun. If we had a doubt, just look at the darkness for two minutes and realize how insignificant we are. Without the sun, scientists tell us the average global temperature would drop below zero within a week. Plants and then animals would die off as temperatures drop to -100 F. As I reflected, I was moved to turn to Shakespeare and his reference to the "petty pace" of man. I thought of Gerald Manley Hopkin's poem, "God's Grandeur." I reached out to poetry and the great thinkers who tried to make sense of the human condition and mankind's journey.
I admit I was depressed and coping with an illness didn't improve my lot. But then Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. My friend Bess, who lives close to that city, was hospitalized in Houston. Her spirits were up though because her care was excellent; some of the dedicated doctors unable to make it home stayed overnight in the hospital to care for patients. I watched on television as ordinary people, men and women of all nationalities, religions and political views reached out to help their neighbors, saving babies, the elderly and their pets. They took their own lives in their hands to venture out into dangerous waters, risking their own lives to help. Later when there were even more disasters to endure in Florida, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Mexico, my heart filled with awe and gratitude for the common man — the hero in this drama which devastated so many.
Ordinary citizens continue to give hope to the trials and tribulations which mark the human condition. Later as I continued to view suffering from natural disasters, I agonized over why human beings would add to this suffering by taking up weapons to kill and maim their fellow citizens. Why are people still waging war and killing on a massive scale? How do we reconcile the differences between those who leap forward to help in a disaster and those who casually destroy others? It is a puzzle. Hopkins shows us how nature provides the hope with a new day: "And though the last lights off the black West went … Oh morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs."
As I recovered from my illness, I looked around me at my children and friends who were so supportive. I knew how lucky I was to have them in my life. My son Mark, who worried about my ability to reach out when I was ill, made sure I had a Smart phone for an emergency, and worked for hours to save my hacked computer. My son Cory drove me to the ER and later home where he cared for me and cooked and cleaned. My son Matt, who lives in Michigan, showed similar kindnesses last year when I joined him and his family on vacation. I am so thankful for them and for friends who called and asked what they could do to help.
We are all surrounded by people who choose to reach out and help, sometimes at great inconvenience or even danger to themselves. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am grateful to the people who give us love and support. These are not the politicians, the rich or the powerful; they are the family members, friends and neighbors who surround us.
Jacquelyn Gatewood is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.