By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Donna and Bill Moore were feeling particularly blessed a few weeks ago, so they held a celebration to thank the friends and family who had been with them during trying times.
Bill Moore, 63, has for five years been struggling with multiple myeoloma, a cancer of the bone marrow that has left him weakened and in need of dialysis three times a week and radiation daily. Since he took ill, relatives and friends have provided support in many ways, including saying prayers, bringing meals and taking out the trash, the Moores said.
And with an event the Glenn Dale couple called "An Evening of Thanksgiving and Praise" at St. Matthias the Apostle, a Catholic church in Lanham, the Moores celebrated their loved ones with praise and song.
"People have been so wonderful to Bill and to me during this time, and we wanted them to know how much we appreciate it," said Donna Moore, a retired D.C. police officer and director of youth ministry at St. Matthias.
With the economy at its most dismal in decades, many people out of work, a record number of homeowners facing foreclosure and the nation fighting two wars, many Prince George's County residents said they are nonetheless feeling more thankful than ever this holiday season. Many said they are curtailing holiday spending and focusing instead on giving their time to family and friends.
"I'm feeling blessed to be here to celebrate another holiday season," said Antonio Torney, 31, of Oxon Hill, who suffered a broken leg and other serious injuries in a deadly crash after an illegal street race on Indian Head Highway in February. His best friend, Ervin Gardner Jr., 39, of Oxon Hill, and seven others were killed.
Torney said recuperating from his injuries has made it difficult to work, and the economic downturn has hurt his towing business. So, he has sharply reduced spending on gifts and entertainment this holiday season.
"After what I've been through this year, I know that it's really not about the material things," he said. "We all feel like we need it and we want it, and we feel like we can't do without it. But there are a lot of people who don't have a roof over their heads or food to eat."
Although Mel Franklin has faced no serious adversity this year, the president of the Greater Marlboro Democratic Club said he is keenly aware of the suffering of those who have been affected by the economic crisis. "I am thankful for being healthy and alive," he said. "I am thankful for our new president. Despite what's going on, we have a lot to be thankful for, because every day God gives us on this planet is a day to be thankful for."
County Council member Andrea Harrison (D-Springdale) said even those she knows who are facing crises seem to be feeling positive.
"Everyone knows there is someone who is doing worse than them, whether they are struggling a little or a lot," she said. "People are thankful for what they have. So many people don't have jobs or are in the process of losing their job. They are beginning to embrace, once again, the simpler things in life."
Community activist Arthur Turner said many Prince George's residents are feeling thankful and fearful at the same time. "Many of them have lived good lives," he said. "They went to college. They've never lived through anything like this. They have good jobs. They had investment portfolios. They had second homes, luxury cars, entertainment rooms in their homes. Then all of a sudden, bit by bit, they started to see the landscape change."
Despite that or because of it, Turner said, people are more aware of their blessings.
"The small things are now important," he said. "A home and family. It used to be that if I got a bonus, it was a good year. Now, it's if I have a job and that job is secure, you had a good year. If I have my good health and health insurance, I had a good year."
Donna Moore said she got the idea for the church program after noticing that her young charges at St. Matthias seldom said thank you.
"I became so concerned that I told Bill," she said. "With everything that was going on with him, I realized how much others had helped us. People have brought meals and come to cook for us at the house. They have brought Communion to the house. They have come to sit with Bill, taken him to the doctor. Neighbors have taken out the trash; they have come to help organize the 26 pills he takes every day. And some people have just been there to listen to us.
"I wanted the kids to understand that when people are that good to you, you have to say thank you," she said.
Despite the hardships -- the medications, the trips to the doctor and Bill often not feeling like getting up -- the Moores said they have plenty of reason for joy this holiday season.
"I feel blessed that he wakes up every day able to give me a smile," Donna Moore said. "I've had more joyful days in this experience than I've had bad ones, especially this year. We could be living in a country torn apart by war with no place to live and nothing to eat. We don't have that, and I do feel thankful."
She said her husband reminded her that she should always remember her blessings.
"It was on the day of the diagnosis, and I was thinking, 'Oh Lord, why did this have to happen to my husband?' " she said. "He said to me, 'Baby, if this is what I have to go through to be closer to God, then so be it. But if it's what I have to go through to bring others closer to God, then get out of the way.' "
More than 500 people came to their celebration last month. Although the program lasted more than three hours, few people left early.
"I have never been at a program where the only point was to say thank you," said Bridgette Tabor Cooper, a friend of Donna Moore's. "Bill wasn't bitter. He was joyful, and he made all us realize that despite everything that is going on, we should be joyful and thankful, too."