To the point week of 11-24-11

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SO HERE WE ARE, preparing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday; and as soon as we finish our Turkey on Thursday; it will be time to fend off “Black Friday” as the Christmas shopping season begins the following day.

So many times this portion of the year seems as though we push down the accelerator and go as fast as we can. Far too often we get to New Year’s Day and we look back and everything has been a blur since Halloween.

We’re like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” – we know we aren’t in Kansas anymore, but we aren’t sure how we got here.

So take some advice – slow down and enjoy each holiday as it comes.

The Thanksgiving holiday for my wife and her family is a special time. Many years ago, in an effort to come to a solution about what to do about Thanksgiving and Christmas visits, the Marcum family decided that everyone would get together at Thanksgiving; and then go to the in-laws on Christmas Day.

So, in effect, tomorrow (Thursday), we will wrap two holidays into one.

If estimates are correct, around 80 people will gather at my wife’s aunt’s home in Louisville for the day. Every chair will be filled; an army of little kids will be playing in the basement; and the coffee table in the living room will contain everything to eat and drink – but probably no coffee.

When times comes for Thanksgiving dinner; everyone will join the children in the basement; where special readings and poems that have been presented for years will be read to honor the tradition; and a blessing will be given, not only over the food, but over each of us, as well.

There will be a time for “announcements”, when we hear about new babies on the way and other milestones. I have stood before them four times – once to announce our engagement; and three times to tell of children on the way. Who knows what might be announced to all this year.

There will be a time of sharing thoughts and memories, and then everyone will settle in with too much food and ample conversation. From the kitchen table to the dining room to card tables in the basement, Thanksgiving Day will be filled with laughter and stories and love.

In the midst of it all, there will also be some tears shed when thoughts of loved ones who have gone on to Heaven are remembered. I will sit on the couch and hear a voice that reminds me of Jacquita’s father, grandmother or grandfather, and it will spark some wonderful memories as well as sorrow and longing.

But I would miss all of that if I was busy racing around getting things together for my Christmas shopping. Believe me, there will be time for that, but in your hurry, don’t miss this time. This place. This moment.

Take time to go slow.

Take time to be thankful.

*

Speaking of thankful, there are many things to be thankful for this season:

– First and foremost, I am thankful for my family, which will all be together this week. Oldest daughter, Abby and her husband, Adam have begun a wonderful life together in Rising Sun; and they will be a part of the big trek to Louisville.

Daughter Emily is about to finish her semester at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. That’s a little bittersweet, too, because it will be her final one there.

Between Christmas and New Year’s she will load her stuff and move her life to Athens, Georgia, where she will continue her education (how about them ‘Dawgs?). The move will also allow her to be closer to her friends from her summer serving as an intern at Big Stuf Christian Camp, and also Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta. Georgia, the church that spearheads the camp.

It’s going to be a little strange to have her so far away, but she’s excited about the next great adventure of her life; and as her dad, I can’t wait to see it, either.

Hilary is finishing up her first semester at Huntington University; and is already active there playing her guitar for Tuesday night worship services and discovering her new community with many new friends from all over the state, nation, and world.

It’s been a time of new discovery for Hilary, and she’s triumphed over her setbacks. Each time she’s home I see a different daughter, one who’s grown from a high school girl to a college woman.

Then there’s my wife, Jacquita. Having spent nearly all of my life with her (I can’t remember when she wasn’t around), I can tell you that she is the centerpiece of the Lanman family; and we are all better people because she’s a part of our lives. I don’t know what I’d do without her, and I’m glad that I don’t have to find out. I love her more than anything I can imagine, but I’m most thankful that she loves me.

– I am also thankful for this community and the people who live in it.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain Switzerland County to those who don’t live here and those who’ve never been here. It’s an entire county of people that interacts as if it were a small town, where everyone knows about everyone else; and everyone cares for those around them in times of need, and celebrates with those same people in times of triumph.

I smile when I talk with high school students who want nothing more than to get as far away from Switzerland County as they can; only to return and begin their lives here.

There is something truly wonderful about this community; and it’s something that we should all be thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of.

*

I am also thankful for the men and women who are serving in our military – and those who have served in the past.

In particular, it was a true honor last week to interview Switzerland County’s own Bob Brown, a hero of World War II. Many knew Bob as one of the many military heroes who live among us; but it was nice to see our country also honor his service.

What many do not know is that my interview with Bob last Monday night was a quest for me. Through the years we have tried to spotlight our brave military veterans with profiles in this newspaper, especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. As a part of that, for years I have attempted to get Bob to sit down and talk with me about his service during World War II, but he has always politely declined, pointing me towards other Switzerland County veterans whom he felt were more deserving.

A great friend of mine recently told me, “Those who know the most about war speak the least of it”, and as I sit and think about my time with Bob and the stories he told, I now understand how true that statement is.

Bob and his fellow soldiers never went to war for their own glory. They answered the call of their nation and did what they were assigned to do because they understood that there was a greater good involved. They knew that this was bigger than themselves, and they served and fought to protect our freedom.

Bob Brown passed away on Saturday night.

When I heard the news, I was shocked, because only days later he was leading me through this incredible tale of bravery and war. I feel honored that I was able to be a small part in the telling of his heroism for generations to come, so that those who follow behind us will be able to “hear” his voice and his thoughts about doing his duty.

For those with family members still with us who have stories to tell, I implore you to make sure those stories are told and recorded so that you have that piece of history, too. We cannot allow the heroism of our “Greatest Generation” to pass by us without a true appreciation for their service.