When it comes to surfing, I don’t think there are many feelings worse than missing a good swell. We surfers are so at the mercy of mother nature that we’re forced to spend a great portion of our lives planning how to free up our schedules to accommodate good waves. As a result, unless it’s a surf trip, we otherwise typically travel with a fair degree of trepidation, hoping our journeys won’t coincide with any significant swells. Or heck… any swells at all.
That said, there’s one trip I take every year during a prime part of Northeast Florida’s swell season that I absolutely wouldn’t trade for anything- traveling up to Hartsville, South Carolina (pop. 7,764) to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. This is one of my favorite annual holiday traditions – when I pack up, hit the road and head so far out into farm country that my cell phone is rendered useless. I couldn’t receive one of SWELL’s Black Friday mobile coupons (or any retailer’s), even if I wanted one. And if I actually wanted to go shopping (HA!), I would have had to travel countless miles just to try and find a store. For someone whose career has revolved so heavily around marketing and online digital communications, I must admit I’ve always found it remarkably easy to just “unplug” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Rather, I relish this rare and special time on my wife’s grandma’s (Nana’s) 70-year-old farm, trying to shoehorn 20 family members ranging from ages one to 93 into a humble 3-bedroom home, and ultimately around a vintage bench-style kitchen table for a Thanksgiving meal where we slide in close to those we love.
Despite floors that creak, guest beds that dip about 6″ in the center and all the challenges of a home strained by the burden of accommodating five times the number of people it was ever designed for; I still find comforts there that the most modern conveniences could never provide.
And I am so grateful…
Grateful to learn that a mix of honey, lemon and whiskey can vanquish a head cold faster and more effectively than any overpriced, over-the-counter medication ever could.
Grateful to witness my 12-year-old daughter, Kendall, get behind the wheel of a truck for her first driving experience, in a lap around the cornfields with her grandpa.
Grateful to know that my 9-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, who seems to grow taller and more independent with each passing hour, is still not too big to find sanctuary in her daddy’s lap.
Grateful to sit back quietly and just admire how truly beautiful my wife and daughters are, both inside and out.
And surfing is the farthest thing from my mind…
How lucky am I?
Interestingly, researchers say that there are enormous benefits resulting from living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Not just spiritual benefits, but physical and emotional ones, as well. In fact, they say it has been scientifically proven that people who live with a “spirit of gratefulness” live longer, and enjoy better overall well-being.
Like most people, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life– a lot of times when I could get down on myself, lose myself in self-pity and ask, “Why me?” But I understand that everything in this world is relative. Somebody’s always going to have it better. Someone’s always going to have it worse. So I never question my circumstances, or why I don’t have this gift or that blessing. I just focus on the things I do have and try to remember to thank God for each and every one of them, every day.
In the “Black Friday” scrambles that so often seem to characterize routine existence, I thank God especially for those too rare occasions when he strips away the superficial extravagances of our everyday lives and allows us to focus on the real gifts standing right beside us. Even when the waves are perfect and we are nowhere close to an ocean.