It would seem difficult to find something to be thankful for this year.
The Republican party is gone, with a new American Nazi party in its place. Artists and musicians who shaped not just a generation, but an era, are passing almost daily. Natural disasters which take dozens of lives, caused by climate changes, are happening more and more often.
And yet, it is in times like these that we need hope. The current icon of hope, Barack Obama, is leaving to return to the private sector, and we are left with an incoming president who cares so little for anything other than himself that he refuses to denounce hate crimes. Germany is leading a growing coalition of nations concerned for the rising white supremacy movement in America. (Germany. Let that irony sink in for a moment.)
Social media is becoming toxic, thanks to the ease at which we can create our own echo chamber. Social media has also made it easier to spread lies when we share “headlines” without checking the veracity of the story, so long as keywords in the headline agrees with our preconceptions.
It’s also ironic to write about being thankful today, when considering the historical context. American Indians are being sprayed with firehoses to protest an oil pipeline from crossing their land and potentially ruining their environment. The initial festival now known as Thanksgiving may be the one time white European immigrants have spent an extended period of time with American Indians without resorting to violence.
It’s hard to find good out there these days.
So…we have to make it happen ourselves.
Social media has also altered how we define and perceive friendship. Our personal value seems tied to “likes” and how many “friends” we have, or the number of followers.
I’m too old to get caught up in that, and have managed to be fairly good about using social media as a platform to trade ideas and tricks about art, or keep up with old friends and family (“real” friends, based on the pre-1997 definition) for when a phone call isn’t convenient at the time. I have even become friends with a few people I have “met” through Twitter (rarely do I “friend” someone on Facebook whom I have not met in person).
One of those friends had been quiet for a while, which is not uncommon when he gets deep into creating a new book. However, I found out that he and his wife lost their toddler earlier this year. I felt awful for not knowing. But, I found something that made me think about today.
Several children were saved by his passing because the boy’s organs were donated. For what would have been the boy’s second birthday, his mother created a hashtag, “fortheloveofotis,” for acts of kindness in their son’s name.
We need more of that.
It doesn’t need to be attached to a hashtag for social media, of course, but it did help me realize that even in our darkest times, we have the great capacity for hope.
When I think of the things that give me hope, things that I am thankful for, it starts with my wife and child. My wife is a stern woman when it comes to my future, never letting me give up. That’s a daunting task. My child is a kind child who cares little for the things that make us different, but is also aware of how cool it can be that we have those differences to make life more interesting.
I am also thankful for a group of friends in the comic and book community that have embraced me and offered advice and fellowship, that are amazingly too numerous to mention. (However, a handful have been truly amazing in their encouragement and enthusiasm, that I would be remiss in not thanking publicly: Mark and Chris Mariano, John Gallagher, Liz and Jimmy Reed, Christy Blanch, Kyle Roberts, the Cosley Family, and the ever-growing “Drew Crew.” Thank you all.)
My family is basically my wife and Kidlet, and my Godmother. When I was young, my grandparents were gone, and the split that sent my mother and father in different directions also separated me from all but my mother. My father started another family, and echoing my childhood, the youngest child was shut out at a young age by my father and his wife. I had managed to keep up with that child for a while, but by the time I met my wife, my step-sister and I had lost track of each other.
My sister found me a couple of weeks ago. We’re going to see her, and my nieces, in a few days.
On a day we generally celebrate with family, those who share a bond of genetics and blood with us, I share the day with a family of my own choosing. People that I care about that enrich my life. My blood relatives are scattered throughout the country, and have not been a part of my life for decades, for a variety of unpleasant reasons.
Today, I celebrate my real friends that I love, and cherish, and whose company I enjoy. They are my family, and I am thankful for them. And for you.
Enjoy the love of your family, whomever they may be, and try to spread a little love… little hope…in their honor.