In a world boiling over with bad news, you can find it increasingly hard to pause and seriously ponder the value of giving thanks, even on the holiday created for that solemn purpose.
Yet, even in darkest times, we still have homegrown heroes who remind us how, at the very least, things could be worse.
Take, for example, the newsmaker who just in time for Thanksgiving offers us the memorable self-deprecating quote, “I’m not a hero. I’m just some dude.”
“Some dude,” indeed. That was Richard Fierro, 45, the retired Army major who helped save lives at Saturday’s mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, where he tackled the gunman who killed five people and injured at least 18 others.
In the club for a family outing, Fierro was credited by police with grabbing the gunman, tackling him as his AR-15-style rifle fell to the floor. Fierro shouted for another patron to grab the rifle and ordered a drag dancer passing by to stomp the attacker while he grabbed the gunman’s handgun and pummeled him with it.
Police arrested Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, on charges of first-degree murder and committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.
Dictionaries define “hero” as a person of distinguished courage, who is admired for his or her brave deeds, noble qualities and sacrifices.
After four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fierro shied away from the H-word, a reluctance that, whether he likes it or not, only makes him sound more heroic.
“I don’t know how I got the weapon away from that guy, no idea,” he told a New York Times reporter. “I’m just a dude, I’m a fat old vet, but I knew I had to do something.”
After months of constant exposure to the hyperinflated egos of self-regarding politicians, it is sobering and refreshing to hear someone who faced danger, came out alive and doesn’t want to grab credit for everything that’s good in the world.
I feel thankful about Fierro and everyone else involved in saving lives that night in Colorado Springs for giving me something to feel thankful about, even if it is only to remember that something bad has happened that could have been so much worse.
Soon my spirits were further brightened by another burst of good news out of the Midwest. The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are back.
Who could forget the awful carnage a year ago when a driver plowed an SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin? Six people were killed, including four members of the Dancing Grannies, an elderly-but-spiritually-ageless group of women clad in red, white and blue, shaking pom-poms and dancing in the streets since the 1980s when they were brought together by the aerobics craze of that period.
The driver, Darrell Brooks, 40, was sentenced last week to life in prison without the possibility of extended supervision on all 76 counts stemming from the attack, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with the use of a dangerous weapon.
“You know, maybe parades aren’t as safe as they used to be,” Betty Streng, 62, from Greenfield, Wisconsin, told a Milwaukee TV station. She survived a fractured skull and brain bleed. “But why would I not go back? Why would I limit my life because I’m afraid of something?”
I found myself watching video of Streng and other surviving grannies in search of things to be thankful for and soon found myself feeling thankful for the video. It’s hard for an old softy like me to watch the Grannies and their joy at being around to face new days together without also feeling a bit choked up.
Indeed, why should any of us limit ourselves out of fear of the past when we could be enjoying and appreciating what we have left to pursue in the future?
We have faced numerous depressing threats, including election deniers, conspiracy theorists and others who have worked relentlessly to undermine our faith in the very institutions that we need to keep us safe, organized and working together to build a better future.
That, to me, is what Thanksgiving is about. We Americans traditionally like to count our blessings and we still have a lot of blessings to count. Let’s appreciate what we have so we can have more to be thankful for in the future.
(E-mail Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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