I realized I had chosen an alternate lifestyle my first Christmas out of high school. Nurses, even student nurses back in the day, had to work when others played, work when others slept, and work when others partied. Not only did I have to work on Christmas Day, I also had to work on my birthday! Since it fell between Christmas and New Year, I had never even had to go to school on my birthday!
For the next 34 years, my life would not be normal. I would not know the feeling of a nine to five, Monday through Friday work week. It had its compensations, but you had to adjust to the knowledge that you had joined one of the professions that had a higher commitment.
For years I worked every New Year’s Eve (on the night shift) so that I could be off on Christmas Eve. Seeing the look on my kids’ faces as they opened their gifts was something I did not want to miss. When it came to Thanksgiving, working that holiday was no big deal. I would always tell people it was not my holiday, so I felt no particular hardship to work that day. In fact, I would often volunteer to work a double shift. When they started paying extra to work the holidays, it would give me some cash for Christmas spending.
Thanksgiving was always a tricky holiday anyway. It felt kind of mean to be celebrating the fact that a group of people had landed on the shores of an inhabited country, and then claimed it away from those inhabitants. While my kids were learning the story of the first Thanksgiving at school, they were learning about Christopher Columbus (‘Come buss us!’) at home from their revolutionary father. When they were told to draw the boat carrying the pilgrims to the shores of North America, their father was insisting that they include Africans in chains below the decks, and Native Americans being slaughtered on the shore. At age six and seven, my oldest children were trying to cope with two very different versions of history.
Fortunately we discovered that we had cousins living close by who celebrated a Jamerican Thanksgiving, one that did not dwell on the heavy themes of oppressors and the oppressed, but instead focused on the feasting aspects of the day. Each year while I worked my double shift, the family would go down to the cousins and eat all manner of foods from the traditional ham and turkey, to the Jamaican curried goat.
Over the years I have come to realize that regardless of the origins of this country, the concept of setting a day aside each year to give thanks is worthy. In truth, we should be thankful every day, for we all enjoy many blessings. But having a day set aside for the whole nation to look with appreciation at the people and things that we should be grateful for is a good thing.
There is a physician, Dr. Ira Byock, who has written extensively on death and dying. He writes that there are four things that should be said when death is imminent. They are: Please forgive me; I forgive you; Thank you; and I love you. Sometimes we forget the basics, the things we need to say to the people around us. And since we don’t always know when death is imminent, perhaps this Thanksgiving holiday we can think about the people in our lives that we are grateful for and give them a call. It never hurts to hear that people appreciate what you have done for them.
However you celebrate the holidays, or teach your children their history, I hope that you are blessed with good friends and family. As we journey together it is good to treat each other with compassion and appreciation.
One Love Family! Please forgive me! I forgive you! I love you! And Thank You for reading my random thoughts and giving me such awesome feedback each week.
Have a great Friday and a wonderful Holiday season.