"I was in no mood to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. We were hurting financially, and the wife was driving me nuts trying to cut down on costs."
"With the bad economy, many are looking for ways to save money."
"You have no idea. First off, I'd been working two lower-paying jobs, as I've been unable to find another good-paying job after being laid off two years ago."
"Too many Americans are struggling this way."
"It's not like I had any spare time, but neither did the wife. She'd been working two jobs. Nonetheless, she had me spending every spare moment looking for coupons and bargains on canned cranberries, pumpkin filling and so on."
"That doesn't sound fun."
"It wasn't. Nor was I very good at it. The wife was so unhappy with my lack of progress, she finally decided to give me a ridiculously small stipend to buy EVERYTHING we'd need for dinner."
"That went better?"
"Not exactly. The most basic elements -- cranberries, pumpkin pie filling, rolls and so on -- ate up my entire budget. I didn't panic, though. One grocery store had a promotion in which the first 20 customers on Thanksgiving morning would get free turkeys."
"That's what I thought. I slept in front of the store all night. There were a couple dozen people, but I snagged the 20th spot. But wouldn't you know it -- they ran out of turkeys by the time they handed out 15! I was in trouble now, so I grabbed our overburdened credit card and went to every grocery store in town -- but not one of them had a turkey!"
"You had no turkey on Thanksgiving Day!"
"The wife was going to brain me good! I was mighty down. As I said, we'd been struggling financially all year. The unemployment rate looked like it would never go down. Our country is broke and getting broker. Our competitors, such as China, are rising. All I could think about were negative things."
"That is understandable."
"Then, as I was driving home, a broken-down van was blocking the road. My first impulse was to honk and curse, but then I saw an old man behind the wheel. I parked my car and knocked on his door. He told me his truck had stalled and he ran the battery down trying to start it. He said he called for help, but it never came -- that his cell phone died and he'd been sitting there for two hours."
"It's hard to get help on a holiday."
"It was freezing cold in his van and he had no coat, so I gave him mine. Then I pushed his van off the road. I know a few things about old trucks and used my jumper cables to get his truck running. You never saw a happier man. It made me feel pretty good -- I completely forgot my worries."
"You did a wonderful thing."
"Well, it got me thinking. We're going to be all right. Our country has faced big problems before. We've solved them before. We just need to reach out to each other a little more. We need to look our problems dead in the eye and face them down, and I know we will!"
"That's why it was the best Thanksgiving ever?"
"Sort of. See, the old man told me he owns a grocery store and was in a hurry to get to the store with five fresh turkeys for a free giveaway when ..."
Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.