Each year before I stuff myself on Thanksgiving Day I go to the gym and try to “earn the bird.”
My goal is to work out like a psycho—more so than usual—so I’ll be able to enjoy a guilt-free holiday meal.
It’s ridiculous, of course. The idea of me being free of guilt is kind of like an opera being free of music. Where's the fun in that?
But I did my best this week and then I headed out to Long Island with my sister and auntie to have dinner with my cousin and her husband.
There were relatively few glitches, even though I (naturally) worried about all sorts of mayhem, like miss train connections, psychotic parade-goes, runaway floats, terrorist elves. etc.
We had one minor incident when we mistakenly got off a packed train at Jamaica Station only to learn that we didn’t have to switch trains.
We charged back onto the train expecting to stand for the duration of our trip, but the three lovely people who had taken our seats immediately got up and insisted we sit back down. A few days have gone by since then and I still can’t believe they did that.
When we arrived at our destination, we ate, socialized, and ate some more and headed back toward home. I was feeling pretty good, despite being rather full and extremely tired.
As the N train pulled into 14th Street I happened to look out the window and there was a homeless man sitting on a bench, a shopping cart filled bottles nearby and mounds of plastic bags on either side of him.
He had a full beard and he was clutching a two-liter bottle of 7-Up. On this day that celebrated family, togetherness and being thankful, here was a man who had no place to go and no one to be with.
It was one of the sights that can make me feel pretty small when I complain about what I think are serious problems.
Earlier in the week I learned that a woman at my company who was being treated for cancer had died from heart failure.
I never met this woman; I never even spoke to her on the phone. I only knew her from the emails she would occasionally send me.
I don’t know how old she was but she had a seven-year-old daughter and obviously a lot to live for. I had no idea she was even ill until her supervisor sent out an email announcing the terrible news.
I have a few days off before I have to work to work and I made the usual to-do list of projects. But I think I should put being grateful at the top of the list and keep it there even when the holidays are over.
Recalling that homeless man at Union Square and my co-worker who didn’t live to see Thanksgiving makes me think that there’s a lot more to “earning the bird” than just working up a sweat at the gym.
It also can mean being thankful for what you have, helping people out, and giving up your seat on a crowded train.