What Thanksgiving means to me…

This email was sent to the subscribers of Richard Brooke’s monthly newsletter in November, 2006. It is powerful, beautiful and simple. I read it when I need a reminder of what I have to be grateful for.

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday. An American tradition. The day when we, as Americans, give thanks for all we have. Thanks for the things, conditions and people we may take completely for granted the other 364 days of the year.

What I love most about Thanksgiving is the purity of it

Notice how we don’t buy each other gifts … you know, the gifts we must make sure are at least as good as the ones we think we will receive. The gifts we cannot afford. The gifts we end up paying for many months after.

Notice how it does not matter what religion we practice. Anyone can celebrate Thanksgiving. It is the holiday that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Kind of like how our forefathers envisioned us as a country.

Notice how there aren’t any goofball, make-believe characters that we have morphed into being the icon of Thanksgiving. Not even the turkey has taken on any meaning, other than food for our feast.

Gratitude is such an amazing power. Gratitude instantly reshapes our over-amped ambitions, competitiveness and rat-race mentality. Gratitude heals many wounds and every relationship when we give it a chance.

Today I am reminded of, and celebrate, those qualities of my life for which I am thankful. I share them with you here so you will perhaps make a list of your own. Carry them in your heart all year, and all your years to come are guaranteed to be more peaceful, loving and abundant.

I am thankful for:

My health … for without it, nothing else matters much.

My lover, wife and life partner Christine, who inspires in me a love like I have only imagined. She makes me want to be a better man, if you know what I mean.

My friends. You know, the ones who do not have a vested interest in any conditions; they are just my friends. Period. No matter what. Always there and always will be.

Buddy, my dog. He is more powerful than any therapist, a wonderful listener who agrees with most everything I say; and the later I come home the happier he is to see me.

My experiences. Some extraordinary. Some frightful. Some I am so happy to have out of the way so I do not have to go through them in the future. They have given me great empathy; some wisdom and fed my infinite curiosity about life and people and places.

My wealth. Which gives me so many things. Freedom to pursue my passions: Flying. Poker. Real Estate. Personal Development. Exploring. Business. Peace of mind that we will never be homeless; forced to take a meaningless job; or be in a position to not take care of each other.

My associates. So much of my freedom and peace of mind comes from the loyalty, gratitude and commitment of the people with whom I work: Sales leaders; office staff; corporate leaders and customers. I vow never to take any of them or their efforts for granted, for without them … well, I would just have to start over. No fun.

My homes. Not the sticks and stones, but the special places I have landed to call home. One of which is in one of the most extraordinary lake communities in the world … in the summer. Eat by boat. Work by boat. Golf by boat. Visit friends by boat. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is one of the wonders of the world. And our little ranch in the Yosemite area of California; a place I have been planning to live since I was about ten years old. Our home sits right on the spot. No neighbors for almost a mile. Not even on the power grid. An hour to the nearest city. Hundreds of miles of perfect Harley mountain roads.

My country. What extraordinary good fortune for most of us that we live in Canada or the US. As selfish, immature and twisted as some of our country’s leaders are, we still are the place where people die every day in an attempt to have just a chance at what most of us take for granted our whole lives. People will die this week in pursuit of this level of religious freedom; in pursuit of this economic opportunity; in pursuit of our Bill of Rights. They will give their lives attempting to cross our borders or cross an ocean to freedom. They will pay a king’s ransom and risk their lives just for a shot.

Several years ago I hopped a plane for Havana, Cuba, and spent a week wandering the streets of the old district. The city looks like the ornate parts of San Francisco, but with the lights turned out in 1956. There has been no maintenance of the infrastructure since 1956. The plumbing does not work any more. Water is pumped from trucks to tanks on the rooftops. Sewage drains into the streets. Electricity, when it does work, is hand strung from dwelling to dwelling. People live in almost cave-like condos they have carved out of the rubble. One lady I met lived in a room as small as our bathroom. She had lived and raised her family there since 1958.

An ex-Harvard man runs Cuba. People in Cuba are so scared of Fidel they lower their heads and whisper at midnight in their own homes when you ask about him. Many of them have made a run across the sea to Florida. Some of those I met did not make it. For every day at sea, they get a year in prison. Prison in Cuba is so bad the manliest of men could not speak to me about it.

It is 90 miles off our coast. In a fun boat they could be here in less than an hour. They occasionally get to read our magazines or catch a radio broadcast, but other than that they are living on dreams … the dream of one day being American or Canadian, or anything other than Cuban.

If you are thankful for nothing else this day, be thankful you are a North American. Any of us could have easily been born 90 miles south of the wrong border.

Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this day were the most celebrated day in our year? Celebrated by us truly giving thanks, saying thank you and meaning thank you.

I do thank each of you for the part you play in my life. Without you, it would be maybe a little or maybe a lot different. I love it just the way it is.

Richard Bliss Brooke