Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is Thanksgiving a noun or a verb?

Today we salute Bob Macauley and Andy Lam. Bob gave others reasons to be thankful, and Andy learned what thanksgiving means.

Bob had a gifted childhood, attending Philips Academy and Yale university, where he was roommates with George H.W. Bush. But from his youth he had an huge streak of generosity. For example, when the Vietnam War ended and Saigon was about to fall in 1975, the United States hoped to airlift 2,000 orphans to the United States. Sadly, the first plane in Operation Baby Lift, carrying more than 100 children, crashed on take-off. Many lives were lost. When he heard another military jet would not be available for eleven days, Bob took things into his own hands. He leased a Boeing 747 from Pan American Airways, mortgaging his home to cover the bill, and arranged to transport crash survivors and other children to America. "Someone will always give you reasons why it can't be done," he said in 1990. "Just mow 'em down. Make things happen."

Evacuating Saigon as Communists enter city.

Andy was not part of Operation Baby Lift. He was 11 in 1975 when he and his family fled Saigon  in a C-130 cargo plane filled with weeping refugees. He was the privileged son of General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His Dad decided to stay behind to fight on in the jungle. When Andy's family arrived in the U.S wearing rags, an impoverished aunt took them in -- ten people in her two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.

That fall his English teacher taught him to say the word Thanksgiving as they decorated classroom bulletin boards with paper pumpkins. "Ssshthanks give in" was as close as he could come. Besides, the holiday had nothing to do with him, since he had nothing to be thankful for. But suddenly he did! His Dad called to say he'd soon join them. He was no longer a war hero, but he brought joy with him. Then Andy remembered his white, black, Filipino and Mexican school friends. One taught him to play baseball. Another protected him from bullies. Another offered to take Andy on his family vacation. And the English teacher made Andy his pet. That Thanksgiving his family sat on the floor and ate two giant turkeys donated by charities. There was even talk of a trip next summer to a magical place called Disneyland!

Today, Andy's Dad is a retired bank executive. His brother is an engineer. His sister lives in a luxury San Francisco condo, and he's a successful author  and editor. But the Thanksgiving he'll never forget was his first one, when he sat on the floor wearing donated clothes, and was just learning to pronounce the word.

For Andy, Thanksgiving was a noun. For Bob it was a verb. Which is it to you?

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