Many dear readers sent me lovely notes about items that got thanked at their Thanksgiving tables. You were blessed in thinking of the less-thanked and you have brought a blessing to us all. So before the spirit of Thanksgiving is swamped by other holiday tasks, here are some of my favorites.
DEAR RABBI MARC: Thank you for your column on "Appreciation for those less thanked." I would like to add "substitute teachers" to that list. I have been a substitute teacher in my school district for 16 years. No benefits, relatively low pay, accepting assignments in myriad classes often at the last minute and expected to relate to students (most of whom you don't know), maintain discipline and teach the subject matter. More than once I have been called in for an assignment and at the last minute told that I wasn't needed for the day. I am treated well by other teachers, the staff and most students. However, to the administration, substitute teachers are a "nonentity," have no rights and not are recognized in any way except when they are needed for the next school year. Ironically, I have grown to love the job and the experience with the students. Thank you for letting me share this with you. — K, from Valley Stream
Substitute teachers are just exactly what I had in mind when I conceived my list of little-thanked people and things on Thanksgiving. They are essential to our educational system and they are absolutely taken for granted and often abused by students and staff. First, they remind us that so-called "regular teachers" are not machines. They are people who work very hard and are exposed to every single germ a child can procure. They get sick. They need help. Very few athletes play the entire game. I actually think that substitute teachers are misnamed. They are not substitute teaching. They are teaching. They should be called just teachers or perhaps, "today's teacher." That way we can see them as part of the potentially immense group of people we meet each day who have something to teach us about life if we just open our eyes and our hearts to learn their lessons.
DEAR RABBI GELLMAN: I loved today's column. Beautiful! I'm thinking of something I am especially thankful for . . . the marriage of my mom and dad, on Nov. 18, 1939. Mom died 30 years ago, and Dad died in 1975. If not for their marriage I would not have been brought into this world, given birth to my three amazing children, Christopher, Diane and Patrick, who along with their loving spouses, gave me my "magnificent seven" grandchildren: Evan, Daniel, Ciara, Joy, Samantha, Thomas and Sam. I don't often remember the humble parents who started this whole marvel of family. God Bless them in Heaven, and thank you! — A, from Shoreham
When I write about the Ten Commandments, many people write to me with anger or bewilderment about the commandment to honor our father and our mother. Many of these dear readers have had a contentious or even abusive relationships with their parents, whom they believe deserve no honor or love. Your loving tribute to your parents reminds me and reminds us all that on one simple physical level our parents deserve honor (the commandment does not specify love — just honor). They birthed us into life. Without them we would not be here. That is enough for deep thanks.
DEAR RABBI GELLMAN: How's this . . . the most likely evolutionary purpose served by the blazing foliage of the fall is that the end of a living organism's life cycle is intensely more beautiful than any period of its living existence. How wonderful a thought about our transition into the afterlife if, in fact, this is exactly what fall foliage is trying to tell us. — T, from somewhere called "My iPhone"
I love this one because it teaches us to see the end of life as more beautiful than all life's other stages. In a physical sense this may not be true. When we are old we are not always as fit and trim or healthy as we are in our younger years. However, in one way almost all of us are better the older we get: We are wiser. A person can be smart when he or she is young, but a person cannot be wise when young. Intelligence is a bestowed gift, but wisdom is an earned acquisition. Wisdom takes time. We are such a youth-obsessed society that we lose the capacity to see the beauty of the aged. Perhaps that is why the prophet Isaiah (46:4) reminds us in God's name, "And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar [gray] hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you." Who knows, maybe the red leaves of fall are wiser than the green leaves of spring?