Growing up, Thanksgiving seemed to be the time to visit with relatives. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would all meet at one family’s home and spend all day and sometimes the next day catching up with each other. The women would drift toward the kitchen to prepare the meal, while the men watched football and told stories.
At dinnertime, everyone would somehow fit around the dining room table and one or two card tables or TV trays and consume great quantities of food. Our plates were heaped with turkey, potatoes, green beans, stuffing—all the fixings. For desert, pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top.
After the meal, for some, there was no choice but to nap. For others it was a time for more talk and watching “specials” on TV. The kids would go outside and play until dark. It seemed that every year followed the same tradition.
Traditions (i.e. beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next) provide a sense of what is normal and accepted. We grew up expecting that life will remain essentially the same with little adjustments along the way. My parents and their parents would talk a little about the depression and the war, but they celebrated life and the joy of living through those events and bringing up their children as the American economic engine was in full growth mode. They were proud to live in the productivity and safety of the United States.
Life has changed. The last three years have radically changed our country and our ways. To a large degree, we have lost our confidence and maybe our way. Our world has become more complicated. We have learned that we cannot simply grow like we have grown in the past. Competition is now worldwide. Our banking system nearly failed. Our housing market ballooned until it burst. Health care in America is being systemically reformed. Much of manufacturing has been taken overseas. We now face the “new normal.”
We can no longer take life for granted or as if we are entitled to life as we have known it.
It is time to get back to the principles upon which the United States has grown and meet the challenges head on. We must get smarter and more creative; we need to step up, affirm our intent, and follow through on what we say we will do. That is the first step in this recovery program.
Just, “Do what you say you will do.” And if you possibly can, “Do even better than what you say you will do!” It creates greater goodwill when you add a little surprise to what you do. Make people happy by adding that surprise. I recently heard a speaker on the subject of customer service suggest, “Take their breath away!”
We must resist lapsing into the lull that things will get back to—well, anything. Our economic momentum is diminishing. We need to continue working hard, and hopefully smarter over time. We must leave this earth better than when we came into it. We cannot expect the next generations to pay for the promises that we made. We cannot live with unacceptable levels of unemployment.
We have great and important work to do. We are proud Americans with the freedom to pursue our dreams and our ambitions. We must look beyond our differences to how we can do better.
We are most grateful for what we have been given. We pause to give thanks. Then it’s back to work every day to renew strength and realize our potential. We must do what we say we will do and then do even better!
Here’s wishing you continued strength and vitality.