Well, here we are, another holiday and for some, a 4 day weekend, compliments of our obsession with stacking days off when a holiday falls on a Thursday, or a Tuesday. The true meanings of our traditional holidays are falling one by one, to the delight of those who capitalize on our desire to purchase more earthly goods. Black Friday here we come!
With new “special recognition” days being pushed on us all the time, we need to stop a minute and think about what days like Memorial Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day and Independence Day meant to our forefathers and why they set them aside as special. “Talk like a pirate day” can wait.
Many of us present day Americans think sacrifice is skipping an ice cream late-night snack, or not getting a new automobile every three years. We are the most self-rewarding generation in the short history of this country. We want our “goodies” now and danged if we will wait. We truthfully have never really lacked for anything essential and the closest thing to starvation we know, is watching a National Geographic special on Somalia, or someplace we don’t care anything about.
We attempt to supersize/turboboost every holiday pleasure into a modern version of entertainment, three or four day weekends and power spending, because our excess in most every area has deadened our sensitivities. We crave more - give it to me, we cry out! Going to the local park and swinging on a swing set has been replaced by getting in a slingshot ride in Galveston, which catapults a pair of pleasure-seeking people at mach five. Christmas has become for many, a time to buy extravagant items that take months to pay for. Thanksgiving is binging and gorging --- and then binging again. Holidays are viewed as excuses to take time off from work and their intended purpose is long forgotten in excessive eating and revelry.
I am as guilty as the next person and all this brings me to a real life experience, that years later came home completely different, from when it happened.
In my arrogant youth, maybe 1973, I was walking through a tropical hamlet in central Thailand with a fellow Airman. We stopped at a street vendor and I purchased “Thai BBQ chicken”. The Thai’s have a peculiar way when it comes to cooking chicken on a brazier pit. They take a whole cleaned and de-feathered chicken and chop it up with a meat cleaver, bones and all, with seemingly no understanding of the anatomy and bone structure of the bird. So what I bought, resembled a cooked piece of strange-looking spicy meat with splintered bones sticking out in every direction and held together with two bamboo sticks and twine, all wrapped in green plastic film and newspaper.
I was accustomed to this after a year “in-Country”, as we G.I.’s called it, paid my five baht (25 cents) and started down the dirt path beside the highway. Suddenly, 8 to 10 filthy rag-covered children, ranging from 6 to 10 years old and every one of them wanting my chicken, accosted me. I was surrounded and overwhelmed! While half of the pint-sized thieves or “ca-moys” grabbed at the chicken, the other 50% attempted to relieve me of my wallet, watch, pocket change, lighter, smokes and worst of all, my dignity.
All this in broad daylight, beside the only blacktopped road in the hamlet.
My Air Force buddy, who hadn’t purchased food, was taken in surprise as much as I jumped back and I did my dead level best to keep all of my belongings, which basically was impossible. After a noble struggle on my part, which lasted all of 10 seconds, I tossed the hacked barbequed yard bird into the air and watched the street urchins dive on it head first. First come, first serve, evidentially. Looking around, I saw many Thai’s watching the whole episode and realized they empathized with the orphan band of brothers.
I was angry and felt violated and made a big show of yelling and gesturing and I’m ashamed to admit it, I cursed and swore at the little “street-rats”. I wanted to strike out and defend my mystery-meat snack, even if it wouldn’t have passed inspection by the most calloused diner here in the States. But they were little kids you say and this was a consideration, that and the fact that I had about 25 witnesses.
I eventually got over it, but kept the same view of the incident for many years, not understanding until much later, the kids were famished and had no resources to draw from. I had plenty and they knew it. To them, it was survival. To me, it was an inconvenience. If I remember correctly, I stopped a few minutes later and bought more “Thai Chicken”.
This year, I intend to take time to truly look at my wonderful family and friends as we gather and give thanks to God, for the inexhaustible Horn of Plenty we enjoy. We are a tremendously blessed Country and it’s time we recognized we are enjoying the benefit of years and years of past toil and sacrifice that has brought us to this place in 2006. I pray we do not become so caught up in self-indulgence that we forget our forefather’s intentions and begin to believe “all this” has come about by our own hands, as that is the time we will surely lose it.
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