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Chapter 13

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Here in the United States, Thanksgiving Day is quickly approaching. While celebrated in other parts of the world, the day has extra special meaning in America. We all know the story of how the Native Americans lent a helping hand to the Pilgrims to save them from certain starvation. There is a lot more to the holiday’s history than that, but those narratives can be found elsewhere. Suffice it to say the core ideas of giving thanks for our blessings have remained constant from the first Thanksgiving to this one.

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But just what does giving thanks mean? I guess the answer depends on whom you ask. For me though, it starts with giving thanks to God for all the gifts He has given me throughout my nearly 39 years, even though at first glance some of those gifs may seem like the exact opposite. My disability is the perfect example. Did I want or chose the gift of cerebral palsy? Certainly not. But the thing about gifts is you don’t choose them. They are given to you.


Some people may think that viewing cerebral palsy as a gift is strange, but consider this. We have all gotten gifts we don’t want at some point in our lives. It’s like unwrapping socks and underwear on Christmas instead of a Super Nintendo. That was not the most wonderful time of the year for me that year. I did not want socks and underwear. I could not play Mario, Donkey Kong or Zelda like my friends. Socks and underwear were not fun, and gifts are supposed to be fun, not practical.
As I’ve grown older, I have come to see the usefulness of gifts like socks and underwear. They are not always fun, but they are useful. This example may be trivial in comparison, but that’s the way I view my disability. Is it fun? No. Do I sometimes still get angry when I see my friends and family reach some of life’s milestones that I may never attain? Sure. But having cerebral palsy is useful and I’m not talking about being able to get a good parking spot at Wal-Mart.
Cerebral Palsy has given me a measure of empathy and compassion I probably would not have had otherwise. I understand we all struggle and that everyone struggles in different ways. Many times, people have told me that my positive attitude or my writing is an encouragement to them. I can honestly say that the gift of cerebral palsy has shaped my writing and it, along with God’s grace, has helped me stay positive most of the time. I have even learned to have fun with my disability. It has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people, while enjoying countless experiences I would not have had otherwise. To extend the metaphor, I may have gotten socks and underwear, but at least they have Scobby-Doo and Shaggy on them.


The practice of giving gifts and being thankful for the ones we receive is not limited to humans, however. Every day my Chesapeake Bay Retriever Gabe showers me with the gifts of love and affection by giving my face and ears a bath and trying to sit in my lap. The latter part is getting harder as he is now nearly 80 pounds. Gabe also puts his paws on my shoulders to give me a hug. The fact that he will jump in a pile of leaves as soon as you get them raked or tear the Christmas wreath off the door and run at top speed through the yard with it is a small price to pay.


How do I plan on saying thanks to Gabe for all the gifts he has given me? With a special Holiday surprise from Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats, of course. The pumpkin peanut butter and the cheese and bacon treats come inside a festive ornament you can hang on your Christmas Tree, which is available for pre-order. I probably won’t hang it because knowing Gabe, he will pull the ornament off the tree, eat the treats inside and then want to play fetch with it. No matter what happens though, I am sure he will love it and say thank you in his own special way. After all, giving thanks is what this holiday is all about.