For many, playing and watching football is as much a part of the Thanksgiving celebration as turkey and pumpkin pie. However, I have a different take on the game and the idea of giving thanks. My Great-grandparents emigrated from Poland early in the 20th century. They settled in the mountains of West Virginia and had 15 children (12 survived to adulthood).
Generally, they had the necessities of life—because they were resourceful and incredibly hard working—but there were few comforts, and very little time for amusements and play. You and I would soon find weeding a large garden and tending livestock tedious chores, but this work was their best assurance of adequate food through the year. All but the youngest children shared the responsibility, and the older boys bore the most.
Few toys are hatchet-proof
Toys for the children were meager, but one year the older boys had saved enough money to buy a football. They didn’t have it long, though. One day they were playing ball rather than doing their chores. Great-grandma Glencoe was chopping kindling for the kitchen stove with a hatchet and gruffly told them to get to work. Well, kids being kids, they were slow to respond.
Next, the ball landed close to her, and without a word, great-grandma swiped at that football with her hatchet and killed it dead. Not surprisingly, the stunned and heartbroken boys wasted no time getting to work.
To our sensibilities, a hundred years later, her reaction seems harsh. But if you think about the world in which my great-grandmother grew up and raised her family, it’s not hard to understand. There was no social safety net. For most people, hunger and destitution were constant and real dangers, like wolves stalking the nearby woods. Providing a family’s needs was gravely serious business that demanded unrelenting vigilance.
I find two lessons in this little story. It reminds me to be extra thankful for the incredible prosperity we currently enjoy. How fortunate so many of us are! Anyone able to read these words has likely never known actual hunger or privation.
Next, it’s a reminder that despite our current prosperity, there are no guarantees. It’s a competitive, dynamic world out there. When it’s time to work, Great-grandma Glencoe’s dead football is an example of the single-minded focus we owe to ourselves and all who rely on us. So enjoy Thanksgiving with deep and genuine gratitude, but on Monday, put your football away.