The many blessings of Thanksgiving

Published 3:16 pm Monday, November 22, 2021

If you’ve read this column regularly, you may be able to tell I really enjoy nostalgia. Growing up in Washington has provided me with precious experiences that have helped me learn to live as peacefully, respectfully and gratefully as I can.

So many people in my childhood have encouraged me and blessed my life.  There are so many people to thank and as Thanksgiving Day approaches, I am reminded of the good things they have shared with me. I thank my parents and my family for giving me a solid foundation in godly character, good morals and faith. I’m thankful for my neighbors who became my parents when mine were working and for making sure we did what our parents expected of us.

I’m grateful for the Sunday School teachers at Spring Garden Baptist Church where I attended as a child.  I remember well the Sunday evenings my sisters and I attended B.T.U. (Baptist Training Union for youth) when I would have much rather been home watching TV.  B.T.U. classes taught us how to grow up in our faith. I am grateful now for all those adults who were faithful in showing up every Sunday evening to teach us life lessons.

I also grew up in Spring Garden Church learning the words to Thanksgiving hymns like ‘Come Ye Thankful People Come’, For the Beauty of the Earth, and ‘We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessings.’  We sang these same songs in our Thanksgiving Assembly programs at school. Every year we had a Thanksgiving program where a class would present a play.  A First Thanksgiving theme was generally offered and always preceded by the reading of Scripture and most often the 103rd Psalm.

As I look back, I have so much gratitude for the small ‘Mom and Pop” grocery stores that were in each community where the owners knew patrons by first names. I admire how they always looked out for families who struggled to make ends meet until pay day. Those families always got a little something extra in their grocery bags, sometimes a jar of molasses or a bag of flour or maybe a slab of salt pork that they weren’t expecting, let alone could pay for. Those store owners taught me also how to be a giver, expecting nothing in return.

I remember with gratitude people I don’t even know by their first names except for the name we kids assigned to them.  There was a man, a salesman of sorts, who would ride thru the neighborhood and was always met with glee by the women. We kids called him ‘the Blanket Man’ because his car was loaded with housewares of every kind; pots, pans, curtains, bed spreads, blankets, sheets and towels.

The ladies would look over his wide assortment of things and pick out beautiful bed spreads or blankets. They would work out payment plans with him and he would come by weekly to pick up his payment.  More than once, I would hear a neighbor ask him to please come back the following week because they just couldn’t scrap up the money to pay him. He’d always respond with a gracious “no problem, ma’am, see you next week.” The Blanket Man will never know how much he taught me about being gracious. I have learned dignity and grace from so many people.

May this Thanksgiving we find so much to be thankful for, and be grateful for the little acts of kindness found every day in our town and other communities that blesses people more than we may ever know.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.