In America, on every third Thursday in November, the country dedicates a day to give a collective "Thank You." Exactly what we are thankful for can be as varied as any number of people you may ask.
But, I'd venture to say the majority of the responses would be about family and health. In addition to those two my mom taught me to consider my freedoms. An American ideal of these was declared by Franklin Roosevelt in his Four Freedoms speech. Some have called it one of the most important speeches of the 20th century and I invite everyone to give it a full read.
Not long after the speech was delivered Norman Rockwell produced four paintings of his 1941 vision of the four: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.
I've never forgotten the lesson of these ideals my mom taught me, or the speech, or the paintings. However, like so many things that are idealistic, they can be ethereal or have been so easily handed to us we consider them "just the way things are" and easly take them for granted. Or worse yet, they have become unappreciated until they are absent.
Let me say right here, right now I have [sometimes] committed such offenses. Colour me guilty as charged.
This morning if you would have asked me what I'm thankful for I would have easily recited The Four Freedoms and some may have been impressed with my answer. Little would they know I was merely giving a well rehearsed speech and not expressing a grateful heart.
But ask me now, the day before Thanksgiving 2007, and I'll give you a different and more sincere answer. You see, this evening I received the following email (printed by expressed permission):
You carried my sister Megan's name with you at Ironman Wisconsin. Tomorrow she will be 11. The day after your race she received a bone marrow transplant. Today we found out from her doctors that the transplant was successful. She has a high chance of surviving the cancer and living a normal life.
Thank you for thinking of all of people you took with you during your Ironman. I'm sure they all appreciate what you did for them. I know Amy does and I do too.
Tomorrow my answer to the question of what I'm thankful for will include two wonderful gifts: the gift of true love and the gift of triathlon for all of the good things it's done for me, for you, and for others.