Friendship, health and firewood

By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist

Thanksgiving, that most America-defining of holidays, is just around the corner.

I can hardly wait.

Not merely for the traditional pleasures of the bounteous table, but because I’m sincerely grateful to still be around to share and enjoy another Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends.

Life is a gift—fleeting, fragile, precious. Neither time nor health comes with a guarantee. Being thankful for one’s blessings was an attitude taught throughout my growing up.

In church and at school, come Thanksgiving time, we often sang “We Gather Together”—that lovely old hymn, of Dutch origins, from the late-1500s.

Grade schools presented plays and pageants with makeshift Pilgrims and Indians doing their best to peaceably reenact that first Thanksgiving feast. Our admittedly inauthentic meal was heavy on the carbs, with various cookies, cupcakes, plus candy corn and miniature pumpkin leftovers from Halloween. All quaffed down with syrupy-sweet orange Kool-Aid. The only turkey served was the gobbler motif on flimsy paper plates.

But the message was still clear: count your blessings— share, don’t take things for granted, and be grateful for all you have.

During recent weeks, I’ve been sawing logs and splitting the rounds into stove-length firewood. We heat entirely with wood. Because of a lung infection which culminated with hospitalization in March, I’d been unable to work much afterwards throughout the summer.

Now—thankfully!—I’m good, able to buck wood, feeling stronger and better than I have in several years! Talk about a real blessing!

When the heating season began and we started firing up the woodstove during cooler evenings, my firewood supply was on a cut-and-carry basis.

I was only mildly concerned.

Then winter came early! Near desperation set in. I spent every spare moment working up the few leftover logs I had from last season—trying to push our firewood to a more comfortable—and safer— reserve.

When temperatures drop into the single digits, a prudent man can’t rest easy with just a week’s cushion of firewood on the pile. What if you get sick again and can’t stay even marginally ahead?

Worse, I was running out of saw logs. Finding a new supply this late in the year would be a problem.

So I was doubly worried.

Recently a tree-trimmer friend called. “I have a big load of logs,” he said. “Mostly ash, seasoned on the stump, ready to burn. You want ‘em?”

Twenty minutes later they slid off his truck’s dump bed into the yard—a pile that when sawn and split would yield maybe two cords of dandy firewood. Work I could manage.

“What do I owe you,” I asked.

“Nothing,” my friend said as he climbed back into his truck.

I shook my head and began to protest. He leaned out the window opening and grinned. “Hey, I’ll bring you another load in a couple of weeks. Happy Thanksgiving!”

“Happy Thanksgiving,” I replied, feeling my eyes moisten.

“Bless you…bless you!” I managed to choke out as he gave a wave and pulled away. I hope he heard.

What’s Thanksgiving really all about? Not food or football… or firewood. But about sharing and caring and being grateful.

Thanksgiving is about spreading love around.

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Reach this writer at [email protected] This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.

Reach this writer at [email protected] This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.