One of our favorite Thanksgiving memories is from when our children were small. They brought home those typical artifacts from preschool and kindergarten activities – the little hand-outline turkey drawings and crayon-decorated pictures of Pilgrims sitting down for a big dinner with friendly Indians. We gave a nod to the fabled happy origin story and then brought up the “giving thanks” part. Who do we give thanks to, and what are we thankful for…. 

We started a conversation about the concept of gratitude. That’s supposed to be the thing, right?  Thankfulness. The kids dutifully started on a list, naming things that were in view at the moment. “I’m thankful for my Big Wheel.” “Yeah, and I’m thankful for ice cream….” and it went on, claiming thankfulness for all the things they – I mean we – usually take for granted except on the day when we have to make a list. Our conversation shifted to the menu for the big day’s gratitude-fest. Why do we eat these certain foods? Why, because we’re grateful for being able to have them of course! A slight discontinuity became apparent as a surprising fact came to light: our young heirs didn’t like turkey very much, the dressing was – uhh, let’s not say yucky and gross, just a no thank you will do – and the rest of the traditional fare all came in pretty low on the thankfulness scale. What foods, then, would make us all feel thankful?

The kids knew immediately. Hamburgers and hot dogs! Cooked on our hibachi grill, outside, because that’s fun. And we need some vegetables too – mixed vegetables, the kind that comes in a freezer bag with chopped-up carrots, green beans, peas and corn. And dessert! Rainbow sherbet for dessert.

It might have been our best Thanksgiving ever. There was a drawback, though. After dinner they ran down the block to play with their friends and the neighbor mom gave them pumpkin pie. When they told us they’d had that treat, my wife pined for our having missed the traditional foods. But overall, we counted our bold departure from tradition that year as a win.

Well, it’s not just food that we’re thankful for, is it?  We look around, this place where we live, and we’re happy we found this little Southern Gables neighborhood. It’s pretty obvious to say we’re close to the big-city advantages of Denver, and equally close to the mountains, but Lakewood itself has great features we’re grateful for as well. Parks, for example. We love exploring the parks and trails around the city, such as Green Mountain Park and Bear Creek Lake Park. Then there’s the Bear Creek Greenbelt, and the new Peak View Park right around the corner from Southern Gables, and many smaller parks all around. All in all Lakewood has 7,200 acres devoted to parkland: over a quarter of the city’s area.

Lakewood promotes culture and community. We have venues and events that showcase the arts and the heritage of the city and the region. The free summertime concerts on the plaza at Belmar draw friendly crowds on Friday afternoons. And how about the ice rink that materializes there in the winter! The Lakewood Cultural Center and the Washington Heights Arts Center offer performances and exhibits by local and national artists. The Lakewood Heritage Center preserves and displays the historical artifacts and structures of the city, and offers inexpensive outdoor summer concerts with top artists. The Cider Days Harvest Festival is an annual tradition that attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy the fall season and the local produce.

Here in Southern Gables, we’re grateful for our neighbors who help each other out in little ways like raking leaves for each other, doing a little extra snow-shoveling past their own property lines to save a neighbor the trouble once in a while, watching out for delivered mail or packages when someone is away for a few days, and generally helping each other get along.

In the Neighborhood Association, we’re grateful for the neighbors who choose to pay the voluntary annual dues, which go to paying for our various activities and events, and provide support for organizations that have a local impact for the good of the community. On that matter, we make end-of-year donations to selected organizations based on how we think the money can best be spent to benefit the community. Last year’s recipient organizations were Green Gables Elementary School, Carmody Middle School, our Cub Scouts for projects they proposed, Westwoods Community Church for their community outreach, the Lakewood Police Toy Fund, and Joy’s Kitchen. In addition, we gave donations to Chatfield Farms for their involvement in our leaf composting project, and Denver Christian School for their work in raking leaves for our elderly and disabled residents.

This year’s recipients will be decided at our quarterly Board meeting on December 4, 2023. If you know of a worthy organization with local impact, you may apply for a small grant (up to $500) from the Association by sending an email request to [email protected] by noon on December 4. Include the particulars of the organization, the purpose of the grant, and the amount requested.

Doing Good in the Neighborhood

We’re thankful.

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