Thanksgiving is not only a time when we give thanks for our many blessings as Americans, it’s also a time when we gather together as families and get reacquainted with relatives we don’t see any other time of year. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that once again, Americans’ older relatives will be welcomed into their families’ homes and not seen only on Zoom.
Every Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking back on beloved family members who are no longer with us. There’s one who meant so much to me that sharing my memories of him has become a holiday tradition here. So I hope you’ll indulge me as I again share the story of a very special relative from my childhood. I usually saw him only once a year, but he taught me a lesson that helped make me what I am today and for which I still give thanks.
When I was a boy in Hope, Arkansas, one thing about the holidays I most looked forward to was the annual visit from my Uncle Garvin. Garvin Elder was my mother’s half-brother from her dad’s first marriage, and so much older than her, he was like a grandpa to my sister and me. He was an accountant and a lifelong bachelor from Houston, and he cut quite an impressive figure whenever he arrived by bus in Hope.
He owned stocks (I could hardly imagine such a thing!) and carried a real leather suitcase with travel tags, not like the cardboard suitcase we owned but never used. And he wore a suit, tie and starched white shirt -- every day! In our town, if you saw a man in a suit, it could mean only one of two things: either it was Sunday, or he was going to or coming from a funeral.
Over the holidays, while my parents were at work, Uncle Garvin was the only adult in the house. So when he wasn’t taking his daily unbreakable appointment with the “Perry Mason” rerun, I would constantly pester him to play checkers with me. Now you must understand, this was in the days before self-esteem classes and helicopter parents. Uncle Garvin didn’t realize how impolite, damaging, even psychologically traumatic and triggering it was to beat the daylights out of a sensitive young boy at checkers. No, he played to win. And he relished beating me…which he did, over and over and over.
Of course, I hated losing to him. But that just made me want to challenge him again. Over time, I gradually got better until I actually beat him occasionally.
Looking back now, I realize what a huge favor Uncle Garvin did for me by developing my competitive spirit. These days, we’ve built a society of hand-wringers so afraid of hurting a child’s self-esteem that everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, no matter how poorly they perform. We’ve taken away their incentive to work hard and get better.
This is the same mindset that’s given us incompetent CEOs who crash companies, then run to the government for a bailout because they’re “too big to fail.” And idiots in government who bail them out with money they confiscate from hardworking taxpayers, because it’s “not fair” that some succeed when others don’t. And who also think that "fairness" means taking money away from people who earn it and giving it to people who don't work but do vote.
Call me crazy, but I believe there’s something to be said for competition and for rewarding hard work, talent and intelligence. And there’s a lot to be said for the lessons learned and the character built through trying your best, failing and trying again.
So every Thanksgiving, when I’m giving thanks to God for my countless blessings, I include a little prayer of thanks for my Uncle Garvin…and for all those long-ago checker games that were so painful to lose at the time.
And of course, I’m thankful for all the folks who help me create my newsletters and website and my show on TBN, and all of you who read and watch. I hope to be giving thanks for that for many Thanksgivings to come!