I refer to the Learning-in-Retirement (its acronym is LIR) class that I, along with about twenty-five other senior citizens, pursue. Sponsored by Georgia College & State University here in Milledgeville, the Creative Writing and other classes in the LIR Division are part of the University's outreach program to retirees to give them something worthwhile to do. Creative writing is not the only class. Art, architecture, history, geography (which includes both domestic and foreign travel in the agenda), and other disciplines can be pursued by the active-minded senior citizens—and for a membership fee of only $40.00 per year. Talk about a bargain, this LIR system is certainly one.
The premise behind the LIR program is that we are never too old to learn! That thought within itself gives pause for gratitude. Through the class, I have met some delightful new friends. Mary Purcell, our current teacher, is one of them. Snatched from the hands of death from a brain disorder, vivacious Mary is now healthy and productively leading our group. If she has to be absent on a class day Thursday, she asks me or another lady in the class to substitute for her.
We have written a book which we have entitled Milledgeville Tapestry. It will contain short stories, memoirs, essays and poems, a hodge-podge of literary graffiti which twenty-five or more "old" people have written for the LIR Creative Writing Class.
We had another title selected: Sweetwater Tapestry, going back to the original settlement name of this fair city, for the name Sweetwater came from the Sweet Spring within the GC&SU Campus where the town's early water supply was located. But a corporation far away from our placid Milledgeville protested, threatening to sue because of the use of "their" name, Sweetwater. Hie on them! Sweetwater town here was founded way back in the late 1700's. But you know how it is with "politically correct" terms. Our teacher Mary and we felt it would be easier, all around, to change our title to Milledgeville Tapestry. After all, this city was the strategic capitol of Georgia prior to and during the Civil War era.
When noted Macon Telegraph columnist, Ed Grisamore, instructed us for a month back in February, 2007, one of his former students, a spry lady in her nineties, labeled an earlier session of the month-long writing Memoirs class with the heart-felt plea: "Don't die with a song still in your heart!" And that's what we want to try to do: To get the songs of our lives on paper before the Grim Reaper comes to say, "No more, no more!"
Now how does this long introduction about the writing class and its purposes have anything to do with "Giving Thanks, 2007"- the title for this column and the thought in our minds as we face "Turkey Day" this week?
In a class, have you heard about an assignment? Even worse, home work? You guessed it. Mary Purcell told us to write about Thanksgiving (the Day) and/or Giving Thanks (the act of praise and thanksgiving). What are you most thankful for in 2007? Have you ever tried to make a list of "the most" anything? It isn't that easy to do. One thing and another keep vying for top billing. My list is not necessarily arranged from the most to the least- but all, to keep the exercise somewhat simple and on task, follows the acrostic pattern of listing. The letters of "Giving Thanks" are the glue that holds the list together.
G- "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised." (Psalm 48:1).
I- "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."(Proverbs 3:6). Be grateful for insight to know that you need someone to lead you in right paths.
V- "Viva"- Latin for "long live" or for life itself. "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14). In August, 2007, I learned as never before how valuable is life, and how it is indeed like a vapor that can vanish away in a moment. Be grateful for life and breath, for a heart that works, and for a second chance.
I- Instruction, teaching- be grateful for the ability to learn something new every day. "Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding." (Proverbs 4:1). "Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not." (Proverbs 8:33).
N- Needs supplied: "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) "I have been young, and now am old: yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." (Psalm 37:25)
G- Government that is stable and allows freedom under law: "Let every one be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13:1.
T- Today. "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24.) "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (II Peter 3:8-b).
H- Home and all the people who inhabit home. "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." (Robert Frost). Home is such a place of respite and rest that Jesus promised us a house in Heaven with the Father: "And I go to prepare a place for you...I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2 and 3).
A- Access to blessings: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8).
N- Nature and all its beauty, riches for us to enjoy and conserve: "For he hath made everything beautiful in His time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
K- Kindnesses shown and kindnesses given: "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." (Jeremiah 31:3).
S- Sacrifice by the Savior for our salvation. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever. By him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Hebrews 13:8, 15).
Have a wonderful time with your "Giving Thanks" list for 2007.
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 22, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.