Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

In the spirit of this wonderful day, here’s a letter from a reader symbolizing how even those with the greatest challenges can often find ample reason to take stock of themselves and give thanks for what they do have.

Bill McGurk says he has “never forgotten a significant lesson that I learned about ‘helping the handicapped’ way back in the middle of WWII when I was riding a civilian train crosscountry from the east coast to the west coast during a military transfer.

“At one point during the transfer, an obviously wounded and crippled soldier on crutches entered the car at the far end where I was sitting.

“Without hesitation, I jumped up and ran to assist him to a seat. Much to my surprise, he did not appreciate it and seemed upset, saying, ‘I can handle it. I’m OK.’

“To this day, it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. Many people who are disabled or injured are determined to do everything they can to take care of themselves — and that is a blessing that we must respect!

“Regardless of our good intentions, we should be available, but not overbearing.”

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I did some random noodling around online trying to find poems with Thanksgiving overtones. The American Academy of Poets has a post (Poets.org) referencing verses that reflect the essence of Thanksgiving. In one of the poems cited, “The Pumpkin,” 19th century poet John Greenleaf Whittier sings about remembrance and return, a celebration of abundance, sustenance and love (in part):

And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,

Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,

That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,

And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow…

Longfellow’s poem, “Harvest Moon,” captures the ethereal mystery of autumn as a suitable backdrop for Thanksgiving:

It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes

And roofs of villages, on woodland crests

And their aerial neighborhoods of nests

Deserted, on the curtained window panes

Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes

And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!

Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,

With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!

All things are symbols: the external shows

Of Nature have their image in the mind,

As flowers and fruits and falling leaves;

The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,

Only the empty nests are left behind,

And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

Contemporary musical artist Neil Young celebrates part of the spirit of the season in his love song titled, aptly enough, “Harvest Moon” (in part):

But now it’s getting late

And the moon is climbing high;

I want to celebrate

See it shining in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you

I want to see you dance again;

Because I’m still in love with you

On this Harvest Moon.

Finally, whereas everybody recognizes it, most probably don’t understand that the American Gospel song “Bringing in the Sheaves” was inspired by Psalm 126:6; “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

The lyrics to the song were written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw and are usually set to a tune by George Minor, written in 1880 (in part):

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontime and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth @comcast.net.