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Joe Henderson: Even a professional skeptic is all in for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving reminds us to take a moment to appreciate the things we take for granted.

An attorney during the screening of a jury pool once asked if I took things at face value, or did I tend to be skeptical. I dryly told the man I was a professional skeptic. Even the judge laughed. When it comes to Thanksgiving, though, I make an exception and check skepticism at the door.

I’m all in for a national day devoted to giving thanks.

Good ol’ Thanksgiving gets trampled too many times. Retailers used to discreetly wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start the Christmas insanity, but no more. If workers forgo dinner with their families to cover a shift, that’s the way it goes.

Well, I suppose the country can’t shut down completely on the fourth Thursday of November. First responders stand at the ready. Soldiers stand their posts. It’s a workday for doctors and nurses who care for patients stuck in hospitals.

So, let’s start there.

I’m thankful for those who put service above self, and for those who lead by example instead of coercion.

The volunteers who offer shelter and meals for the homeless year-round deserve our thanks and praise.

Thank you to the pilots, flight attendants, ground crews, and airport employees who give up their Thanksgiving so you can catch a last-minute flight to grandma’s house.

Thanksgiving reminds us to take a moment to appreciate the things we take for granted. During my years as a sportswriter, major holidays were often just another day at the office. I didn’t think much about that at first because it was the profession I chose.

As time passed, though, the idea of spending Thanksgiving or Christmas in a press box or airport lost its appeal. There will always be another game, but life only gives you so many chances to have your family together around the holiday dinner table (even if it is virtual this year).

This one will be a little melancholy in our household, to be honest, because there will be an empty chair at the table. Two years ago, we lost my wife’s father, Pat Patterson. He was alive for 94 years, but I think he crammed 150 years of living into that time.

He was a U.S. Navy vet and served in World War II and Korea. Pat was a Ph.D., a university professor, and incredibly curious about life. He also grew prized orchids and could offer an informed conversation on nearly any topic.

In keeping with the theme, though, I’m thankful to have known him. He and his late wife, Grace, raised a son and three amazing daughters, including one named Elaine. I’m thankful for how they welcomed me into the family 38 years ago after Elaine said she’d marry me.

Thanksgiving is when we stop and think about those things. I think about my sons, Ben and Patrick, and Ben’s wonderful wife, Heather. I think about blessings too numerous to count.

I’m sure you do too. I loved reading the long list in last year’s Sunburn of what makes Florida’s political movers and shakers thankful. None of it was about money, power, or any of the other forces that shape our modern political scene.

They talked, instead, about family, friends, and gratitude.

We need more days like that. Of course, as a professional skeptic, I know that wish won’t come true. We’ve got one day, though, where the theme is about gratitude, sharing, warmth, and love.

I’m thankful for that.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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