Beyond the old porch, brilliant orange light falls on the trunks of twisty oaks and their rogue branches. A deer wanders in the distance, immune to the frantic barks of our two dogs, who are inside looking out. I too am inside, to remain in the cozy heat of our first fire of the season. Embers glow red hot, pops and cracks entertain as flames generate warmth on a cold morning. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies remains after last night’s baking adventure in preparation for the day we offer thanks.

Embrace the Pain

Holidays like the one coming this week serve such an important purpose, reminding us to truly be thankful for everything and everyone in our lives. Even being grateful for our problems and challenges, which prepare our hearts for the difficult reality that we lack control, and that we need to learn hard and important lessons we would rather avoid.

Those Who Bring Out the Worst

For many, a gathering that includes arguing with Uncle Harry and family battles over politics or football teams will feel strangely comfortable, as many gather for the first somewhat normal Thanksgiving since 2019. We’ll be remembering to be thankful for each moment, each family member, including the ones who always seem to bring out the worst in everyone. 

Considering the Opposite 

When you wonder how anyone can possibly believe what they are spewing, lest we forget: They feel the same about whatever you are spewing. And no matter how radical or nonsensical we think something is, remember that some of the most radical people in history were considered crackpots and later vindicated. Some, like Galileo, were even arrested as heretics. Would it be worth considering the opinions of others before jumping into an argument? 

A Different Vision

Someone very close to me is “that guy.” His ideas always seemed so bizarre, and sometimes people even questioned his sanity. His predictions seemed absurd, silly, not possible, usually downright crazy. His argumentative nature was driven by his confidence in his ideas, and by not suffering fools who could not see the same vision. And yet, decade after decade, he’s been right more often than not. Now I pay attention.

Years ago Apple’s advertising campaign celebrated the misfits, the radicals, the ne’er-do-wells, because they changed the world. But while those people were changing it or predicting change, others called them crazy. 

Though I don’t consider myself at that level of world-changer, I’ve had the displeasure of being called crazy for ideas that many said would never work. Some of those ideas I never pursued, but others did, making them billions. Some I did pursue did not work, but in other cases, they worked later, and for someone else — my timing was wrong, usually meaning too soon. My friend Roy tells me I am typically a decade too early. 

Is There Any Point to This?

So as you gather around the table, the best way to give thanks is to give respect to others. Be willing to consider their ideas and respect their passion. They have their passion for a reason. And though you can simply tell yourself they are crazy, or not well read, or misguided, or simply stupid or falling for strange theories, before jumping down their throat, ask yourself why they believe what they do. Could they possibly be right?

Well Read? 

The world likes to demonize obscure ideas that don’t fit the mainstream narrative. Some people manage to look deeper, look in other places, and comb through information not easily found. Some like to think for themselves rather than sticking with what they are told to think.

If these rebels did not exist, our world would not be as exciting as it is, and radical new ideas would never get embraced. Where would we be without Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, or Nikola Tesla?

A Wide River

At Stanford University, I once sat in a small room with 20 other people as a young entrepreneur told us about his 1-year-old startup. Almost everyone in the room, myself included, thought it would never work. Yet had each of us invested a small amount, that would be worth billions today. He told us he chose the name he did, Amazon, because it was the biggest river in the world  — a metaphor representing that he would someday have the biggest store in the world. Jeff Bezos was considered crazy. 

Billionaire to Be

One day I had a visit from a man who asked if I would trade ads in my radio magazine in exchange for stock in his startup. He did not have cash to buy ads. Arrogantly, I declined, not understanding his vision of a world that did not yet exist. Why, I asked, would anyone want to listen to ball games over the Internet when they could listen on TV and radio? Years later they sold the company for billions and he became a household name, and my tiny amount of stock traded for ads would have been worth a couple hundred million. Though I can’t look back and regret my stupidity, I can stop shutting my mind off to things I don’t understand.

What about you?

Do you automatically reject crazy ideas?

Do you think some people are crazy for believing the things they believe?

Have others thought you were crazy?

This Thanksgiving, let’s embrace crazy Uncle Harry. Be willing to consider the craziest, most insane things. Before defending your turf, ask yourself, is there anything at all behind this? No matter how insane it seems, be willing to consider anything with an open mind. It will make the day a little easier, and you might discover something new. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though I’m an open book, I’ll never share my political thoughts, and I rarely talk about what I give and to whom. While others like to call attention to themselves about their donations, their giving, often putting their name on buildings or statues, I prefer to remain low key.

I’m also very picky about whom I give to because so many organizations have expensive salaries for their executives. 

Here are two that I like.

This one gives boxes of goodies to kids in need worldwide, so that everyone can celebrate Christmas. And this one helps homeless people get off the street by offering them tiny houses. Its village is doubling in size this year. It’s so successful that people are visiting from around the world to learn to implement similar programs in their towns.

If you’re feeling a need to help others this season, you might want to consider giving something. If each reader of Sunday Coffee gave $25 to each, we would raise $7.5 million for these two combined. 

If those don’t float your boat, consider helping someone else in need.