Read­ers of­fer a few ad­di­tions on what we should be thank­ful for

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Arts - BY RABBI MARC GELLMAN Rabbi Gellman is the au­thor of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing “Re­li­gion for Dum­mies,” co-writ­ten with Fr. Tom Hart­man.)

Many dear read­ers sent me lovely notes about items that got thanked at their Thanks­giv­ing ta­bles. You were blessed in think­ing of 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 a myr­iad of 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 “non-en­tity,” 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. Best wishes for a Happy Thanks­giv­ing to you and your fam­ily.

– K, from Val­ley Stream, N.Y.

– 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 so­called “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. – M.G.


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, N.Y.

– 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 re­la­tion­ship 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.

– M.G.


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 youthob­sessed 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 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? – M.G.

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