Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It's not a bad idea to pause on one special day to consider blessings great and small. On Maui, any and all days of the year can be occasions for giving thanks.
The hustle and bustle of modern Maui often obscures the best aspects of our island home - the people, the place and even the weather despite a hiccup now and then.
As this is written, it's not one of those spectacularly beautiful days on the island. A high layer of clouds obscures the sun. Still, tourists are thrilled with what they see. The weather guessers warned of showers expected just in time to dampen beachgoing but having little or no effect on families and friends getting together, gobbling comfort food and watching television.
There's no divorcing Maui from the Mainland or the rest of the world. Credit television. It wasn't always so, but that's truly ancient history.
"Has it started yet?" The voice came on a waft of aromas from the kitchen.
"Sort of. What's his face is talking about a problem they had with one of the balloons."
For some, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is as much a tradition as turkey on the table and football games on the tube. The parade extended its reach into the islands by inviting various Hawaii bands to march New York streets to the delight of family and friends in front of their TVs back home. The parade is a large, glitzy promotion for the department store, a kickoff for the heaviest retail selling of the year.
Thinking about the parade never fails to summon up a newspaper anecdote. Famed sportswriter Damon Runyon was assigned to cover the parade. Relying on memory and imagination, Runyon turned out a story while sitting in his favorite watering hole. Looking out the window, he noticed snow falling. He wrote that the sound of the horses was muted. All in all, the story was a masterpiece of poetic newspaper prose. A copyboy ran the handwritten story back to the office. Runyon went back to his libations, not knowing the parade had been canceled.
And, there's another reason to be thankful. Newspapers in general and The Maui News in particular made it possible for me to live a life better than I deserved. It was a newspaper that brought me to Maui and a newspaper that made it possible to stay.
Thanksgiving was first mentioned in The Maui News in 1929. The plantations gave everyone a day off. It's not hard to imagine many of those workers heading off to fish or hunt.
At a time when the world seems perpetually wracked by one culture fighting another, it's a blessing to live in Hawaii, even though there are periodic expressions of discontent spawned by a perceived lack of mutual respect. The island is too small and society is too personal for intercultural friction to become more than a speed bump on the way to harmony.
Of course, a collection of people is a community only if individuals care to make it so. I'm grateful for the true islanders who take the time to notice those around them and acknowledge their presence. I'm grateful for neighbors - and even strangers - who are ready to help when help is needed.
"Don't you ever get lonely? asked an acquaintance who had learned I live alone.
"Not at all," I replied.
I'm grateful for islanders who, one way or another, have allowed me to become a hanai part of their ohana. It can be a simple as a conversation, an expression of concern, a memory of some previously discovered commonality. I'm grateful that Maui is still a place where strangers take the time to talk story and are willing to smile in passing.
I'm grateful Maui is still a place where individuals can make a difference, a place where dreams can become reality as long as you can keep a kind heart and an open attitude. An example: A casual friend has been feeling hemmed in. Recently, he found a place to live in one of the most remote parts of the island yet close enough that he will be able to continue doing the work he loves.
I'm grateful for being able to live on an island that offers the embracing lushness of rain forests only miles from wide vistas of desert lands. And around it all, the ever-changing moods of a blue sea.
Life is good. There's been work worth doing, people to love and a place to live that is beautiful and soul satisfying. Thanks, eh.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.