Homer J. Thanksgiving Wishes
Photo via The Player’s Tribune. Cameron Heyward wrote a beautiful piece about his daddy. You can read it here.
Well, I lied. We have a plethora of posts this week, thanks to my fabulous co-authors. Which makes me also note how thankful I am for coolest thing about Steeler Nation: I’ve met people I never would have encountered in my regular life, and they have greatly enriched it.
This goes for all of you out there as well, even though I haven’t met most of you in person. So—start planning for next training camp. Meet-up time!!
HOMER WISHES YOU A HAPPY AND WONDER-FUL THANKSGIVING
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
It’s Homer’s favorite holiday, highlighting the Four F’s: family, food, faith, and football, though not always in that order. The Steelers are off today, and we are thankful for their performance last Thursday. They are sitting comfortably atop the division, so this year’s NFL Thanksgiving games are pretty much just background noise for Steeler Nation.
It is the quintessential American holiday, open to people of all faiths, races, economic class, and football team affiliation. Yes, they even celebrate it in Cleveland and Baltimore. And even that Beelichick guy celebrates, thankful that he didn’t get caught cheating this year. At least not yet. Hell, even that crying lady in Cincinnati can wipe away her tears and join in the festivities. We head home to join with our families – to visit and honor our parents if they’re still with us. We get together with the guys we grew up with and head out to the backyard or open field and throw around the football and have our own neighborhood Turkey Bowl.
College and the years may have relocated us, but we”re still the old gang and always will be. Family and neighborhood are among the foundations of our lives.
Many of us attend our houses of worship, and nearly all of us say prayers of Thanksgiving as we gather around the table. Many of us compare the scene at our family table with that of the iconic Norman Rockwell painting.
*** *** ***
The hymn that most of us associate with this holiday is typically American. It’s from somewhere else, and it was originally about something else. Actually, it was about a slutty girl, I think. It was a Dutch song, and the words were “she is wild, who will tame her?”
But at one time, the Netherlands was under the control of Spain, and King Felipe forbade the Dutch Reform to assemble in prayer. After they rebelled and gained their freedom, they took the melody of that bawdy ballad and put new words to it. They assembled in prayer, and offered a prayer of Thanksgiving. Over the years, the words have been translated into many languages, but they speak to us all….
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
He chastens and hastens his will to make known
The wicked oppressing, cease them from distressing
Sing praises to His Name, He forgets not HIs own.
“We Gather Together” was chosen by the people who assembled songbooks for grade schools, and nearly all of us learned it as far back as second or third grade. It became an American anthem during World War II, when we associated “the wicked oppressing” with the Nazis and the Japanese. And the final words of the third stanza, “O Lord, make us free,” expressed the most fervent hope of those on the battlefield and those on the home front. Still do.
We won World War II and saved the world from a thousand years of darkness. We won the Cold War. And yet, the state of the world oppresses our spirit once again.
*** *** ***
Last week, the great American novelist Annie Proulx received the National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and her remarkable acceptance speech spoke to the darkness that is enveloping so much of our world….
(please put her speech excerpts in quotes format – they are delineated by double parentheses directly below and in boldface)
We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds. This is a Kafkaesque time. The television sparkles with images of despicable political louts and sexual harassment reports. We cannot look away from the pictures of furious elements, hurricanes and fires, from the repetitive crowd murders by gunmen burning with rage. We are made more anxious by flickering threats of nuclear war. We observe social media’s manipulation of a credulous population, a population dividing into bitter tribal cultures. We are living through a massive shift from representative democracy to something called viral direct democracy, now cascading over us in a garbage-laden tsunami of raw data. Everything is situational, seesawing between gut-response “likes” or vicious confrontations. For some this is a heady time of brilliant technological innovation that is bringing us into an exciting new world. For others it is the opening of a savagely difficult book without a happy ending….
Yet somehow the old discredited values and longings persist. We still have tender feelings for such outmoded notions as truth, respect for others, personal honor, justice, equitable sharing. We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth—an indescribably difficult task as we discover that the web of life is far more mysteriously complex than we thought and subtly entangled with factors that we cannot even recognize. But we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do.
The happy ending still beckons, and it is in hope of grasping it that we go on.
It is precisely our feelings for bedrock beliefs such as family, truth, respect for honor, decency, and sharing of God’s bounty that keep us going. They may seem to be outmoded here in Washington or out in Hollywood, but, in our lives, we know they must remain as fresh and wonderful as the aroma of turkey in the oven on Thursday afternoon. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that compels us all to rededicate ourselves to the beliefs that our parents and grandparents shared and passed down to us.
One way to do that is to share a very special experience with your family. Go and see the movie “Wonder.” It opened this past weekend and is the rarest of motion pictures. It’s the screen adaptation of a children’s book about a boy born with severe cranio-facial abnormalities. It’s about acceptance, about bullying, about courage, about love, and, above all, about kindness.
“Wonder” is rare because it’s a kids’ movie on one level, but it had every single adult in the theater crying at one recent showing. At a time when the world seems to be spinning out of control and we seem helpless to do much about it, this movie provides the perfect antidote.
Although each of us is only one person in this world, each one of us can still be the entire world to someone else. It really does matter how we treat one another.
Wonder has a strong Pittsburgh connection, in that the film’s director, Stephen Chbosky, grew up in the South Hills, calls himself a “proud son of Pittsburgh,” and insisted that his first highly-acclaimed film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” be filmed in and around his old neighborhood, and his favorite haunts. He and his family are still big fans of King’s Family Restaurant, Frownie Brownies, and King’s Apple Pie – with cinnamon ice cream. Our town had a major, major co-starring role in “Perks,” and Stephen often says he shares his Pittsburgh blue collar work ethic and values in his films. They’re certainly in “Wonder.”
*** *** ***
We need our family, our faith, our friends, and our neighbors, for they provide us shelter and comfort from all that is bad – the “wicked oppressing” – that seems to be all around us.
And so we gather together – as we do – each Thanksgiving, to ask the Lord’s blessing and to give thanks for the many blessings that we do have. We are not perfect, nor are our families perfect, nor our lives. We each have struggles and demons, dislikes and failings, but on this holiday, we best overlook those shortcomings. At the Thanksgiving table, we understand that given the choice between being right and being kind, it is better to choose kind.
That is the lesson that young Auggie teaches us in “Wonder.” It is a lesson that is sometimes forgotten in our troubled world. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Have a Happy – and Wonder-ful Thanksgiving.
Thanks for making me cry, Homer, before I can see the movie. Actually I think I just got something in my eye. Please be safe this weekend, and tell someone you take for granted that you love them… Rebecca