I’d like to start with a reading from the King James Bible. Please turn to Ecclesiastes, Chapter Three:
To every thing there is a season
OK. Let’s stop right there. This observation is not only the opening verse of the Byrds’ 1966 hit cover of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn.” It’s also the very basis of our modern day shopping patterns.
We move from new year’s celebrations in January through Christmas parties in December on a calendar that’s heavily sprinkled with special occasions from birthdays to funerals to weddings to graduations and all manner of religious and national observances marking events both joyous and tragic, year in, year out. We run on a calendar designed not by Pope Gregory, nor the Mayans, but by Hallmark.
And out of all those special days it seems disproportionately unfair that we reserve just one for giving thanks.
It’s been widely noted in editorials of recent years that Americans as a society are becoming more selfish than ever before. This may well be so, but I’d like to point out that we’ve pretty much always been this way.
The “first Thanksgiving” took place in October 1621 and lasted over three days thanks to the 90 members of the native American Wampanoag people who shared their bounty with 53 Pilgrim survivors of the Mayflower.
Over the ensuing centuries, as Europeans continued to arrive, native Americans were paid back with land theft and attempted genocide among other atrocities.
But a topic like that would be sure to ruin just about any Thanksgiving dinner. And let’s face it: Thanksgiving as a holiday is much less about giving thanks and much more about the food and the football games and the keeping up of appearances.
So where, when and how are we supposed to celebrate and show gratitude if there’s no special day for it?
A growing body of research shows that we should in fact celebrate and show gratitude on a daily basis.
Why? Well, mainly for selfish reasons.
Health experts are finding that expressing gratitude and feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immune response while decreasing depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
These are all things that many of us take pills for on a daily basis in order to treat. So why should it come as a surprise that we should practice our expressions of gratitude daily? We should be taking our medicine.
As it happens, our behavior changes our biology. When we make an effort to connect with people in a kind way, our bodies release oxytocin. Sometimes called the “love hormone,” it helps people connect and feel good.
I believe in this. Expressions of gratitude can be very fleeting but still they provide a positive effect. As with any daily medication, you need to keep on your regimen for best results.
This doesn’t mean that you should limit your gratitude to a simple thank you to the barrista or bartender of your choice for serving your beverage. There are often others who merit our thanks who somehow get overlooked during the course of our daily lives.
For example, I’d like to take this opportunity to deliver a heartfelt thank you to Elmer Ploetz, who has been a very good friend, confidante and editor for me. This month marks his farewell as the long-time editor of the Sportsmen’s Journal of Americana Music.
There is no way for me to adequately express my gratitude for all the help and encouragement Elmer has provided for both me and my band the Steam Donkeys over the past three decades, but I hope this little mention is a start.
Ken Biringer is another one who springs to mind. Ken has been in charge of booking at the Sportsmen’s Tavern since it was a single-floor corner bar with a tiny, triangular stage tucked in where the soundboard is today. For those who don’t recall those early days, picture a pool table crammed in there as well.
How anyone was able to book a national act like Dale Watson or Billy Joe Shaver into a little Black Rock hole-in-the-wall like that is still a head-scratcher.
I am grateful to Ken for all the years of friendship and help booking my band at Sportsmen’s over the years. Sometimes we’ve been blessed enough to sell the place out. One time we played for just the soundman and the bartender — until we gave up, took seats at the bar and turned up the volume on the TV in order to watch the Canadian broadcast of the final performance by the Tragically Hip.
Through all the strikes, spares and gutterballs, Ken continues to believe in us enough to put us on the calendar for this Thanksgiving Eve. You should come join us.
I am thankful once again to Bob McLennan and Doug Yeomans to have the opportunity to reprise my role as Ronnie Hawkins in the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Association’s annual production of The Last Waltz Live at Babeville on Nov. 17. I’m grateful to be able to rub elbows with all the incredibly talented cast members in our local music community at that show for this, the seventh year.
I’m thankful that I have this monthly platform “Buckwords” for ramblings such as this one, where I also get to look forward to having my stuff published alongside that of former Buffalo News music critic Jeff Miers, whose insightful and elegant work I’ve admired since reading it in the Blue Dog Press.
I am thankful to John Brady, Dave Kimball and John Weber — my current bandmates in the Steam Donkeys — as well as all the former members who climbed on board and sailed those interstate seas with me in a used church van.
As you can see, once you start thanking people, it can quickly become addictive. The good news is that it’s an addiction without any health risks that actually spirals you upwards to a more happy and healthy state of being.
So let me close for now with a deep and heartfelt note of appreciation to all you music lovers and kind readers. You are all very special and beautiful to me.