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.