E.L. Doctorow wrote, "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Doctorow's metaphor works pretty well as a blueprint for living: Stay focused on the journey — the road we can see ahead.
It's easy to spend our time worrying about the future, regretting the past, diverting ourselves from what's directly in front of us. And too often what's directly in front of us is a computer screen or a television, the ultimate diversions.
There are petunias and impatiens and roses blooming in my yard during Thanksgiving week for the first time in my memory. I joke with a friend that it's a result of global warming. And maybe it is. But they are beautiful and in my "headlights" and I'm thankful to have them to look at for as long as they can survive.
I am thankful there are people in our midst like those at the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, who devote long hours for little pay to help the poor and powerless. I'm thankful that there seem to be more and more people — including many of the wealthy — who realize that simply accumulating money is a meaningless way to live and that those whose sole life purpose is avarice are not holy men to be emulated and protected.
I'm even thankful for the Republican debates, the never-ending "Dancing With the Clowns" show that's demonstrating week after week the shallowness at the core of most of the candidates — the exceptions being Ron Paul, who seems at least sincerely committed to something, and Jon Huntsman, who seems the least interested in joining the absurd pandering to the groundlings.
And I am thankful for the gift of being able to pay attention. The poet Mary Oliver reminds us, "such beauty as the earth offers must hold great meaning." And she is right. From "The Summer Day":
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?