Gratitude is the greatest attitude

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

It's Thanksgiving Eve and all through our houses, there are visions of turkey legs and long lists of blessings (we hope).

I'm grateful for the timely refurbishing of the Marshall Field clock at Harlem Avenue and Lake Street, for the improvements to Scoville Park and the rejuvenation of Mills Park.

For the new village president, whose attitude is refreshing, and the previous village president for leading Oak Park's emphasis on a greener village.

To all who are proving it's not that uneasy being green, for those who pick up litter and clean up after their dogs, for the trees in our urban forest, which turned spectacularly the first week of November.

I'm thankful for coach John Hoerster and the OPRF Huskies, who did something I never thought I'd see: drawing enough fans to fill the stadium stands for a football game (against Glenbard West).

For director Michelle Bayer and the entire cast of Les Miz, who pulled off something special in the OPRF auditorium last winter.

I'm grateful to the St. Giles Family Mass group for demonstrating that alternatives can remain vibrant and relevant for more than 40 years.

For the Lake Theatre's First Tuesday Club, bringing art films once a month to an audience hungry for them, and for any movie at The Lake that touches our humanity, challenges us and makes us think (e.g. The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine).

For Writers at Wright (where would Oak Park be without its writers?) and for Unity Temple (Frank would approve of the cultural center it has become).

For the Early Childhood Collaboration, especially if their efforts pay off in the years to come, and for the intergovernmental collaboration that funds them.

For Sear's Pharmacy's signs, which show you don't have to take yourself too seriously to be good at what you do.

For Pope Francis I, who also did something I didn't think possible — making me feel good about the pope again. And Pope Benedict for having the good sense (or divine inspiration) to retire when he did.

For Bob Walsh and all the other stalwart Vatican II Catholics who somehow kept the faith all these years and now are reaping an unexpected harvest.

For two very little boys named Tyler and Bryce who transformed me in a "grand" way — eight weeks early.

For the OPRF fund surplus (frankly, I'm sick of school referenda and the accompanying gamesmanship).

I'm grateful for the OP-RF Food Pantry, Prevail, PADS and the Holiday Food and Gift Basket program for addressing the needs of the poor — and for all who give and get involved.

For Rev. Julie Hartley, a profile in courage (living with ALS) and the team that ministers to their minister.

For Sunday concerts in Scoville Park, those who attend as much as those who perform.

For those putting up resistance to IDOT's path of least resistance in widening the Eisenhower Expressway.

For Hemmingway's Bistro, an oasis of elegance, sunlight, and French music in the mornings. For the summer garden at Cheney Mansion, a symbol of seasonal fullness, lovingly tended by Charlie Ruedebusch and his crew.

For the state legislature (how often can you say that?) and Gov. Pat Quinn for making same-sex marriage mainstream in Illinois. Any signs of forward progress in this stagnant society are deeply appreciated.

For the Affordable Care Act, which will survive the predictable, small-minded, mean-spirited subterfuge and second-guessing to provide health care for millions, and President Obama for his continuing grace under pressure (Hemingway would be impressed).

For the Senate Democrats who finally reformed the long-overdue, long-overused filibuster, one of the Republicans' favorite tools of obstruction.

That our villages produce young people like Anne Smedinghoff, John Clay III and Scott Daniel.

For railroad embankment murals by talented artists, reunions that bring forgotten stretches of our past alive, the sunset's long-lingering afterglow, rooftop views, long rides on a bike trail through the forest preserve, long walks through River Forest with a friend, a glass of better-than-average wine with better-than-average friends, Daylight Savings Time, Fourth of July fireworks, the smell of Dunkin' Donuts wafting across the village at night, a deep sleep with a surprising dream, a beautiful memory, ideas that come out of nowhere, clarity of thought at 4 a.m., dinner with close friends during the darkest time of year, beauty in its myriad forms.

For the grace that follows a period of personal challenge, the relief that follows a prodigious crap, the relaxation that reaches down into the legs during a long sleep, the mind when it lurches into the next gear, poetry that stabs sweetly, moments that make us feel more human, song when it soars effortlessly from within, finding what you're looking for at last, enough time to not be in a hurry, enough quiet time for thinking.

For the smell of olive oil, the aroma of simmering garlic from a nearby restaurant, the tingling of anticipation when the weekend arrives.

For the places where we see and greet one another, points of convergence that reinforce our sense of community: Whole Foods, Panera, Trader Joe's, the Lake Theatre, the public libraries, Red Hen, Starbucks, Farmers Market, George's on weekends, Winberie's on weeknights, Poor Phil's, our churches, the Ethnic Fest Parade, the Memorial Day Parade, the July 4th Parade, the Halloween Parade, block parties, the pools, sidewalk sales, Day in Our Village, Oaktoberfest, Micro Brew Review, Thursday Night Out in Downtown Oak Park, OPRF and Fenwick sporting events, youth baseball and soccer games, the Book Table, Open Door and Madison Street theaters, Festival Theatre in Austin Gardens, and myriad other opportunities to connect that can be found in our Calendar each week.

For curb appeal, which makes walking our streets a visual feast, for residents who preserve our continuity and for those recently arrived with new ideas and energy. For African-American residents who hold the white majority accountable for our professed devotion to diversity. For gay and lesbian residents who help make this village an oasis of tolerance. For conservative residents who stay, and stay vocal, even though they will always be in the minority.

For community newspapers that keep going through a time of challenging transition.

For all this and more, I give thanks, tomorrow and throughout the year.

Gratitude is a great attitude. May it suffuse all of us, especially when times are hard.


Reader Comments

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Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 29th, 2013 8:52 AM

@ Jim Coughlin - sorry Jim never jumped a shark. In high school (RB) we water ski'd on the Desplaines river between the scout cabin and 22nd street. We did jump a lot of stuff, logs, snapping turtles trash and some kinky stuff. Never a shark! Left that to the Fonz.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 2:15 PM

In light of John Murtagh's comment may I echo his sentiment and wish everyone in Oak Park a safe and happy Thanksgiving. May each of us reflect on our own list and call someone you have not talked to in too long.

john murtagh from oak park av  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 1:14 PM

Ken - Thanks for your Thanksgiving Perspective. I agree and disagree with some of your views, but I love the fact you just lay it out without looking back. Agree or disagree, you represent the entirety of OP in your writing. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 12:56 PM

@ Bill - my daughter has been with Cirque du soleil for 8 years and I bet she could help Supreme Court Justices find a new career - if they so desire. A back flip into a wheel chair by justice Ginsberg or a head stand by justice Roberts. No, that enterprise is big business and is very profitable so it must be evil.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 12:17 PM

Oh my God?. people on the Supreme Court contorted themselves? They're way too old for that and could get hurt. Good thing they all have excellent government funded health insurance.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 11:22 AM

Jim - remember the famous words by Nancy Pelosi who gave us this ever-lasting quote - "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy." That pretty sums it up.

Real List  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 10:27 AM

"We just think people will be too focused on saving money and they won't get the care for their children and themselves that they need. .?.?. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better." Think that quote came from the current administration regarding ACA? Think's Hillary Clinton circa 1993. Some things never change.


Posted: November 27th, 2013 10:26 AM

Sorry, Jim, Ray is right on this one. The ACA was unilaterally adopted by Democrats using procedural slight of hand. There was no bi-partisan support for one of the largest government expansions in our history. When it came time for the Supreme Court to throw out the garbage, it contorted itself to uphold the law while simultaneously holding intellectually irreconcilable positions (it's a tax, but it's not). ACA is wealth redistribution plain and simple enacted in a dishonest manner.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 9:53 AM

@Sarah - simple gratitude is NOT calling neighbors "Small minded and mean spirited" @ Jim 5 million policies cancelled and an estimated 65 million more about to happen is in fact brute force. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 9:39 AM

I'm grateful that we can always count on to give us a debate - even when it comes to simple gratitude thanks. (insert wink)

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 9:24 AM

The ACA was "enacted by brute force". You've officially jumped the shark, Ray.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 7:49 AM

"Grace under pressure" Obama has lied to the American people for four years and when exposed is compounding the issue by piling on more lies. The ACA was conceived upon a dishonest premise, written to conceal its redistribution endgame passed by buying votes and enacted by brute force. Obama gave his wife's college friend 600 million tax dollars to create a web site that is neither functional nor secure, with no hint of any demand for a refund. All of this and you have the chutzpa to call us "small minded and mean spirited" If you want to promote the wonders of this disaster, please bring facts to the table. Hand wringing, progressive ideology is being exposed for the small minded mean spirited bad governance it is. The definition of "Train Wreck" will soon be redefined as ACA.

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