By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner
Did your summer fly by? Mine did. At least it seems like it. Or as my dad used to say, time just seems to go faster as one gets older. Nevertheless, the time of the year I look forward to the most is rapidly approaching—the holiday season. And it starts with Thanksgiving.
Since our son married, he and our daughter-in-law have taken on this holiday as their own. I welcome that because all I must do is show up. She has a large extended family, so the dinner is usually buffet style in which everyone can participate at their own pace. But before you can enjoy the food, you must share in a tradition that I enjoy very much. Each participant must express a personal thought of thankfulness. It is heartwarming to hear everyone share their own thoughts on what they have been most thankful for in the past year.
In today’s world, I sometimes feel surrounded by a lot of anger and frustration—even hostility. It comes at me from the newspapers, television, radio, blogs, tweets and every form of social media. If it does for you, I hope my message here helps diminish it. I hope I kick-start your thinking about what you have to be thankful for this coming holiday season.
I am thankful for family. I have a loving wife with whom I have spent over fifty years together. We have one son who makes us very proud. We also love his wife as she is a wonderful person, mother and friend. We have two great grandchildren who continue to bring joy to our lives. Our daughter-in-law was born in the states, but in the early 70’s her parents emigrated here from another country. I am thankful for their courage in doing so. Because if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be enjoying them and my two grandchildren. And I am thankful for her extended family. Through them I have learned a great deal about another country and its culture.
I am thankful for health. Both my wife and I continue to go through the aging process. We have some issues that we must manage, but our health is good. We can continue to do most things that we enjoy doing. We are thankful for the medical professionals that serve us and the systems they operate. We are supported by a very good health-care environment. Along with my health, I am thankful that my wife encouraged me many years ago to work with a personal trainer. I am not someone who enjoys going to health clubs. I can appreciate their benefit, but that environment is not for me. But many years ago, she began to work with a personal trainer to deal with some health issues she was having. She convinced me to try this, and it has been extremely beneficial. Over the years, we have worked with several different individuals. Each has helped us recognize the importance of taking action to manage our physical well-being.
I am thankful for friends. We have a group of people that we visit with from time to time with whom we can share humor, sadness, happiness and friendship. They are from diverse backgrounds, walks of life and experiences. We benefit from knowing them and having conversations with them.
I am thankful for the educational system that supported me as I was starting my career. It gave me a good foundation of knowledge. It helped me develop my character which, hopefully, is one that honors everyone, treats them fairly and is one which most people respect. It also gave me a thirst to continue to learn. I appreciate the resources that are available to me to help me continue to broaden my education and continue my learning.
I am thankful for my business career. I had the opportunity to work for one of the finest professional organizations in the world. The people I met and worked with, the relationships I developed, the opportunities it provided me to travel and learn about other parts of the world, the disciplines it taught me, the training it gave me—all of this contributed to my growth as a professional, a businessman and a person. To those of you with whom I worked personally, thank you for your time, your advice and counsel.
I am thankful that I continue to have the desire to try new things. I am thankful that there are resources available to do so. In my case, that includes working with my wonderful piano teacher for the past three years who guides me in this new adventure of trying to make sense out of notes on a page. I have also challenged myself to participate in a brain health study. It has helped me understand some of the things I can do to manage my life through the aging process. I am thankful for two other organizations that I have begun to participate in recently. One is giving me a new perspective on racial differences in our country; the other is helping me understand the polarization of political viewpoints. Both are exposing me to the thoughts, beliefs and feelings of other people who have been, traditionally, outside of my social and professional circles. This is a good thing.
I am thankful for technology. While I continue to be challenged by an inability to utilize my personal computer, my iPhone, my Kindle to their maximum benefit, I appreciate these tools. I also recognize that if I challenge myself to use them for different purposes, I am also contributing to my brain health. I am thankful for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Direct TV, Brit Box, Apple TV and so many other entertainment streaming services. I am a child of the 50’s. I grew up on TV. These are a significant part of my personal entertainment. They helped us get through our Covid sequestration. We not only watch them, but my wife and I challenge ourselves to discuss them. We also have interesting conversations about them with friends and family. A noted educator and businessman once called television “a vast wasteland.” I would agree that some aspects of it may be. But we enjoy the options and choices of entertainment it gives us.
Other than playground sports and high-school intramurals, I was never athletic. I get my sports enjoyment from watching my favorite professional teams – the Bears, the Cubs, the Bulls and the Blackhawks. I am thankful for all of them – most of the time.
Many years ago, we had a series of puppies in our household. Then, because we moved around a bit, we stopped raising any pets. More recently, my wife suggested we might take one on again. As a result, I am thankful for Barkley. He is an-about-to-be two-year old Miniature Schnauzer who has, no doubt, changed both of our lives for the positive. He contributes to my brain health by challenging me to think of ways to get him to behave in an appropriate fashion. He contributes to my physical health when he insists that I walk him every evening.
I am thankful for meditation. I followed the suggestion of my brain coach and took up the practice of meditation. Like so many other things today, there is an app I use on my phone to guide me through the daily process. It only takes a small amount of time every day and it has been very beneficial to me.
I cannot write a piece like this on thankfulness without being thankful for the place I live. I don’t mean my specific address or block or city. I mean this country. Yes, I am sometimes frustrated with things that I see going on in our country. But when I think about them, I am reminded of past conversations that I heard around our own family’s holiday table. My mother, father, aunts, uncles and grandparents often expressed their feelings about the “direction” we were going in as a country. Despite their concerns, however, none of them ever wanted to leave. My ancestors, like yours I am sure, came here for the possibility of better lives. And no matter what they saw or experienced in the negative, the positives of living in this great country far outweighed them. There are factions and groups around me who might never be satisfied with the way things are, but I am thankful that there are so many more people and groups around me who continue to try to make things better.
And I am thankful for you, the reader. Many of you have written me over the years to thank me for the thoughts I have expressed in our newsletter. I appreciate you doing so.
If you have come this far, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts again. I hope this piece promotes your own individual thoughts of thankfulness. I hope you and your families and friends share, honor and celebrate your holidays together. Be safe, be healthy and be well.
If you have any comments, I welcome that you write me at firstname.lastname@example.org With the holiday season approaching, if you are looking for a nice, inexpensive gift for someone close to you, go to www.amazon.com and pick up my book – Think Straight. Talk Straight. I will certainly be thankful for that!