Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
November 22, 2009


Thanksgiving is the time to stop complaining and give thanks


"I can’t complain."  That is the response I often get when I ask someone, “How are you doing?”

The comment always triggers my admiration. How nice to speak to a person who has chosen not to complain! Most anyone can complain so it is a rare person who refuses the invitation to do so.

 What is even more admirable is the person who while refusing to complain seizes the initiative to give thanks for their blessings. Encountering such a person always makes my day; which reminds me that November is more than deer-hunting season. It is also the season when we are likely to bump into someone who has the attitude of gratitude.

Thanksgiving Day is a special day in the life and history of our nation. It is that November Thursday that reminds us to stop complaining and give thanks for our blessings.

Because of the economic downturn in America, many of us are struggling with financial problems. Some of us have bewildering troubles we never dreamed of having. We truly have much about which we could complain.

While it is true that many of us are hurting, it is also true that we have many blessings for which we can offer thanks. Most of us have more blessings than troubles. And giving thanks is good medicine for a complaining heart.

Thanksgiving Day reminds me that among my greatest blessings are my Thanksgiving memories. Some memories are painful but most are pleasant. As another Thanksgiving comes around I try to ignore my bad memories and focus on the ones I treasure. Of course my Thanksgiving memories are all about family.

My family was not wealthy but neither were we poor. I was born on a farm when times were hard. It was called the Depression.  Daddy raised cows, chickens, hogs and sheep for a spell. He grew his own hay and stored millet in a silo; the millet, mixed with molasses, was good food for the cows in wintertime. Like most farmers he made good money growing cotton and corn one year and lost his shirt the next.  

Daddy never failed to plant a big garden so there was always food on the table even when there was little money in our pockets. My three sisters, my brother, and I ate at a table which Daddy built with his own hands. It was sturdy and big enough for the seven of us. I still have that table. Our son Tim helped me put a new top on it. We eat on it every day.

I pity the families who raise children these days without eating together at a table. Back then there were no TV trays since there was no TV. I know things change but I believe life was better when families sat around the supper table together – and actually talked to one another.

Suppertime was often accountability time. When my parents asked how things went at school, one of my sisters might say, "Just fine, except I heard that Walter Junior (that was me) got a whipping from the principal today."

After supper Daddy would take me out back. There he would remove his broad, black belt and give me a few more licks. It was no surprise. I knew the rules: “Get a whipping at school and you got another one at home.” It was Daddy’s way of encouraging me to improve my behavior at school. His plan worked. By my senior year I had learned to stay out of trouble.

O. M. Bratton, the principal, was a small man but he wielded a big stick, actually a big, ugly, wooden paddle. He whipped us in the privacy of his office, making us bend over a chair. Each sinner got three licks across his rear end. To get a whipping at school was not a terrible dishonor. The dishonorable thing was to cry so we tried hard to grit our teeth and hold back the tears. But the tears usually came anyway. That paddle hurt.

After a paddling we had to sit under the big clock in the school office. That was worse than the beating because everyone who came in and out of the office knew exactly why you were there. The humiliation was worse punishment than the three licks.

Which hurt worse – the paddle or Daddy’s belt? There was no contest; that black belt left whelps on me that stayed sore for days. Did Daddy have less compassion than the principal? I don’t know. Perhaps Daddy was just more determined to get my attention.

Mamma loved Thanksgiving. She liked nothing better than preparing and serving a big meal at noon on Thanksgiving Day.  I can close my eyes and still see her bountiful table. Toasted pecans were always available as well as both
pumpkin pie and potato pie. My brother Seth prefers potato pie while my favorite is pumpkin.

A slice of Mamma’s pumpkin pie was decorated with a spoonful of whipped cream. In addition to the pies mamma prepared ambrosia for dessert.  For the uninitiated, ambrosia is orange slices covered with shredded coconut, topped off with a cherry – mighty good! 

There was turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce, along with a plate of ham. The vegetables were usually from daddy’s garden. He never tired of reminding us that we had grown most of the food in our own garden.

Mamma and Daddy canned vegetables with a passion. So we had an endless supply of lima beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, black-eyed peas, potatoes, onions, and green beans. Our parents took great pride in the hard work that kept food on the table.

After our Thanksgiving meal there was no nap. Instead there was for many years the family ritual of covering Mamma’s green house with plastic sheeting. Sons, grandsons and cousins climbed on the roof to pull the plastic sheeting over the fragile glass roof. A gas furnace inside the green house provided heat for Mamma’s many flowers through the winter.

Mamma and daddy are gone now and so is the old green house. But some wonderful memories remain.  On Turkey Day I will do my best not to grumble about my troubles but to give thanks for my blessings – and especially the memories that continue to warm my heart. + + +