Thanksgiving goes beyond a day

Even after Thanksgiving, I can't help but think about giving thanks. In fact, I have been thinking about Thanksgiving a lot this year.

Last year, I was recovering from a surgery that saved my life. A few years before that, I was in Kuwait, and before that I was in Iraq for turkey day. I am afraid that I have been keeping myself so busy that I have missed much of the importance of the day.

For that matter, I have missed a lot of life in the process of trying to be successful.

I am a true believer in the idea of enjoying the ride on the way to the destination, but I believe a lot of us struggle with the practical application of that principle. As I get closer to retirement I am more aware than ever that I am running out of time to prepare for it.

I remember a time when I would do stuff without thinking. They weren't necessarily dumb things, such as buying a car just because I liked it. Maybe that was dumb, in retrospect. Now I research and consult the financial planning advice of Dave Ramsey on his Web site, which is all good, but the fun seems to have been lost in the process.

The reality is that past age 50 you can't recover from many of the financial and career decisions you make. That's a lot of pressure, and it can take our eyes off the things we have here and now to be truly thankful for.

In June, I'll be deployed again. I'm not sure where yet, but I know that I'll be missing my older son's senior year of high school and my younger son's freshmen year. Doing the math, I think I have missed about one-third of their lives.

I am not complaining. I knew what I was getting into when I joined the Army. I absolutely love being a chaplain. It is an incredible ministry, and right now I cannot imagine doing anything else. But for this next year and I hope the years to come, I am committing to truly enjoy each moment that I have with my wonderful family, and I want to thank them for loving me no matter where I am.

And I want to thank each of you for your prayers and support of the men and women of the military and their families, who make our way of life possible.

Lt. Col. Mark Thompson is a United Methodist pastor and a chaplain at Fort Gordon.

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