When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’ — Vine Deloria Jr.
Whether Thanksgiving lives up to the picture perfect Norman Rockwell version of the holiday – and much popular culture insists that it rarely does – one thing is for sure: It gives a lot of people a reason to think about what they have to be grateful for.
And so, Weld gave some of Birmingham’s public minded citizens the opportunity to share what makes them give thanks, particularly as they think about the community and where it is in 2013. It turns out that a few see in the Magic City reason for gratitude and even hope.
Here’s what they had to say.
Pam Cook, General Sales Manager WUHT Hot 107.7 and WZRR 99.5 The Vibe ( Cumulus Media)
As we approach Thanksgiving, a time for family, food, football and fun, I’m so grateful for God’s grace and mercy on my life. I’m grateful for my family, right mind and overall health. I’m grateful for the future. Whatever lies ahead of me I thank God now for the great life past, present and future.
Joseph Baker, President of I Believe in Birmingham
I’m thankful for the wonderful people in Birmingham who are working diligently to improve the community. The recent upwelling of civic pride is a blessing as people discover that there is every reason to believe in Birmingham and our potential. The next few years are going to be very exciting and I feel blessed to be involved in pushing the civic discourse forward.
Josh Klapow, Chief Scientist ChipRewards Inc. / Psychologist at University of Alabama at Birmingham
I am thankful for this place in the South that took a kid from California away for the adventure of a lifetime. I’m thankful for the opportunities over the past 17 years and the magic the Magic City has brought into my life. I’m thankful that 17 years ago I came here alone and today I have a beautiful wife, two beautiful children and a way of life that can only exist here in Birmingham. I’m thankful for having just enough courage to head south and thankful that my life has turned out the way that it has.
Pat Byington, Director, Tennessee Wild Campaign
I am thankful that we have so many parks and nature preserves in Birmingham. Special places including Ruffner Mountain, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Red Mountain Park, Oak Mountain State Park and Railroad Park…just to name a few.
Nez Calhoun, Director of Public Information at Jefferson County Board of Education
I am grateful that I live in the USA, that we have a representative democracy, and that most of the population of this nation still prays to God.
Heather Spencer Holmes, Director at MAKEbhm
I am thankful for my community:
My neighborhood Crestwood North, where neighbors have become good friends.
My creative community — friends that I have worked with for years have become part of my family. I would not be as happy or successful without them. Together we make a great team. (And together we make some pretty cool stuff!)
My new job as director at MAKEbhm. By establishing a physical space for artisans to learn, share and create, we are strengthening our city’s creative community. I am so fortunate to be a part of something that will benefit Birmingham in so many ways.
Melissa Snow-Clark, Head of Communications, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
I am thankful that I work at a world-class facility that teaches about the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. It’s an important story that needs to be told — especially to children. They need to know that what happened here in our city continues to inspire positive change around the world.
Gail Andrews, Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art
I am grateful for the new energy and sense of the possible. I know the old headline, “Birmingham, City of Perpetual Promise”, has hung like a challenge as well as a cynical joke for decades. We feel a new energy, a turn for the better, to be disappointed with a backward slide. But I truly feel, after living in this city for almost four decades, that this is the year we will look back on and recognize the shift. And that shift I believe comes from a new confidence in this place rising among our citizens.
Bill Todd, President, o2ideas
I’m grateful to know Shelley Stewart. Shelley is the wisest person I know, and he has created a business that is a model not only for Birmingham but for the rest of the world. His whole life has been a testament to grit, perseverance through adversity and above all, an indescribable devotion to respect for every human being irrespective of race, creed or religion. He’s a Renaissance man of the kind of rebirth we really need — a rediscovering of our potential when we look to the needs of others instead of ourselves.
Jimsey Bailey, Website Designer, President at Magic City Moments
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the good health and safety of my family, and extended family and friends. I am also thankful that this year, being the 50th Anniversary of so many tragic events, gives us cause to stop and consider our history and where we’ve come to, and how we might make it better for all.
Janice Ward, freelance communications and training consultant
As a longtime resident of Birmingham’s Southside, I am grateful for the diverse and dynamic community that is the Southside. This community has been home to me and my family for more than 30 years. The community offers something for everyone: the visual and performing arts, music, great restaurants, parks and awesome views.
Brian Tunnell, Owner, Rent Monster
We’re thankful for all of the great people committed to the current revitalization of Birmingham. Everybody likes to be around positive, uplifting people. The energy and passion that flow from this large, growing and — hopefully soon — overwhelming group of business, government and community leaders is amazing! Thank you for making Birmingham such a wonderful place to call home!
Sabrina Simon, marketing counsel
I am always thankful for my family. I’m also thankful that even at my age (which I’m not going to disclose) there are opportunities every day to learn from others, and in this regard Birmingham has many, many teachers.
Thanks for the Web
There is a substantial amount of thankfulness on the World Wide Web, which, considering some of the other stuff on the web, might surprise some people.
For instance, since 2009, there has been a website called thankfulfor.com, which features blogs and commentary about various things that make various contributors thankful. People who sign in can tell the world what they’re thankful for. For instance, a woman named Mitzi recently wrote that she was thankful that “Due process cancelled today!!!” which sounds like a legal matter.
On the other hand, someone named tfunk proclaimed a reason to be thankful related to the happiness of other people: “I am thankful that my job allows me to be involved in the many levels of food production that feeds the world and helps make food affordable.”
Some indicated many different reasons to be grateful, such as Roberta: “I am thankful that Matthew’s ankle is feeling better, that Nikki’s biopsy was negative, that I was able to reach an agreement with Richard in just one meeting, that I got to spend time with the kids this weekend, that I have made progress on my home purging, that we discovered the Malibu needs brakes and its now safe, and that I have an electric blanket while the furnace is being fussy. Thank you God.”
And some are thankful for a range of things, like suomi48, who posted several times:
“I am grateful for every little thing that I usually overlook and take for granted….
I am thankful for this website which helps me express my gratitude….
I am thankful I have a wife who loves me and takes care of me, as I take care of her….
I am thankful I have clean water to drink….
I am thankful I have a house to live in.”
Gratitude in America
While many Birminghamians are grateful for what they have, the view on the subject of thankfulness depends on where you look in the country.
A recent poll by Harris Interactive found that of 2,368 adults surveyed online between October 16 and 21, 2013, 38 percent of Americans feel that they have more to be thankful for. That’s down from 2010, when 41 percent felt they had more to be thankful for, and quite a bit lower than in 1983 when half of Americans said they had more to be thankful for (50 percent).
Of those who are thankful in the Harris Poll, however, the reasons are similar to those expressed in Birmingham: more than three-quarters of Americans (85 percent) are thankful because of their family’s health , while 84 percent are thankful because of their family relationships, and 76 percent are glad because technology makes it easy to stay in touch with family and friends.
Perhaps interestingly, those numbers are down from some previous years. In 1980 almost all Americans said they were thankful for the health of their family (96 percent) and because of family relationships (95 percent).
Some people find Thanksgiving inspires as much humor as it does actual thankfulness. Johnny Carson, the former king of late night television, was reputed to have said, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”
A different king, the King of Queens Kevin James, said something shorter, but no less sweet than Carson.
“Thanksgiving, man,” James said. “Not a good day to be my pants.”