As Thanksgiving approaches, commentator Rawlins Gilliland is thankful for thoughtful inspirations.
One lovely night, forty years ago, I went alone to the Apollo Theater in New York City’s Harlem to see the mesmerizing funk pioneer, Sly Stone. At the sold-out midnight show, I was the only white face in the crowd when the band launched into writhing seduction; the opening bars of a song called, "Thankful N Thoughtful."
The repetitious riffs became a syncopated mantra; the audience lapsing into hypnotic rapture, swaying left and right as though Sly was a snake charmer and the theater crowd the giant cobra rising from their seated basket echoing, “Thankful” “Thoughtful”. Having known black churches in my youth, it was euphoric; combining devout gratitude with a sensuous, even sexual, praise.
“Sunday morning, I forgot my prayer
I should have been happy, I still be there
Something could have come and taken me away
But the main man felt Sly should be here another day….”
While many find solace reading religious books, I’m the son of musician artists whose secular scripture was sheet music. So when I’m overwhelmed, I hear Sly’s anthem, thankful and thoughtfully mindful that prayers can be less about asking for something than saying thanks for everything.
Remindful that, even when suffering a personal crisis of despair, depression’s antidote might be turning our attention to others feeling lonley, scared, desperate; especially vulnerable when the holiday season begins compounding the fractious. Those struggling to survive are never hard to find.
As Thanksgiving makes cataloging our blessings a rite of time’s passage, my Thankful/Thoughtful short list is easy to share. I’m thankful to those who pay me money for something I do well and to those thoughtful enough to not use religion as a weapon. I’m thankful for friends who become family and to rescued dog and cat friends who make my house a home. I’m thankful that thoughtful young a third my age can respond to the human I organically became.
I’m thankful for anyone thoughtful enough to observe the lives of others with objective empathy, for those making promises they keep. I’m thankful for material belongings even when I’m thoughtful enough to deem my possessions mixed blessings. I’m thankful for thoughtful adults who transcend this season in thoughtful poise rather than thanklessly contributing to its blistering pressures.
My season’s lyrical Thanksgiving dream is that we begin phasing out this tempestuous year the way Sly Stone closed that midnight show. United, if only for a moment, languishing in joy to the world fearless resolve feeling "Thankful...thoughtful...thankful...thoughtful..."
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.