(November 29, 2009 --- The Times, The News-Star)
I grew up around blessings counters. If we went more than three church Sundays without singing "Count Your Blessings," some family would threaten to move their membership.
These were hard-line thankers.
Farmers would grieve over the weather fates. Coaches would cuss over the fumbles of those farmers' sons. Grandmas would wonder why cows and back yard gardens and daughters-in-laws had dried up.
Life's a veil of tears.
But they were a thankful bunch, and I think that made them kinder. People who sincerely and often say "thank you" are a lot more kind than those who don't. When you know someone has been kind to you even though you don't deserve it, it makes kindness to someone else much easier — but still hard.
Giving thanks is easy. Living thanks is where the rubber meets the road — but it's easier to be thankful when my tire is full than when it's flat.
The now-passed-on pastor Adrian Rogers once used a John Milton quote in a Thanksgiving sermon.
Milton, the blind poet, said that a person with an ungrateful spirit only has one vice. "All of the rest of his vices are virtues compared to ingratitude," Rogers preached. "Every other sin is a virtue compared to the sin of ingratitude."
The lesson I've missed so often is gratitude in the little things.
It sounds so trite and stupid!, but we're to have an "attitude of gratitude," something easier said than done when Aunt Leeta swipes the last of the sweet potato casserole. Or Bubba swipes the last parking place.
Speaking of ... the edge or low spot of the sweet potato casserole where all the brown sugar and a little butter has settled. Are you grateful for that?
Grandmama's scent, of Kool filtereds and flour. The eyes of an old dog. The sound of squirrel feet racing up pine bark.
It's the little things.
You know what I'm grateful for? The memory of that cheap-blender sound, telling me my mother was in the kitchen baking for us. The smell of gravy. A sweet potato sandwich.
Are you grateful for a car that starts? I pound the dash when it doesn't start but I forget to say "thank you" all the other times it does. See how spoiled that is? Or how out of touch with gratitude that is?
I'm glad there's a newspaper. I like holding a newspaper. A simple pleasure. Throwing a newspaper can be fun sometimes. I don't mean throwing it like a paperboy throwing it, into a driveway. I mean reading something that's stupid and throwing it, like you throw stuff at the television when the Saints fumble.
When you are really cold and you're thinking of how you'll soon be warm and finally you get to a warm spot and that first warm blast hits you: I'm thankful for that. For that first chestful of morning air this time of year. For the sounds of children singing. For your favorite time of day. For a friend to give thanks with.
Someone rightly said that it's not easy to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. When the lady runs over your foot with a grocery cart, or they get your order wrong at the drive-thru, or the Saints lose another close game.
Wait ... What? They haven't? They didn't? Well then, to Saints, and saints, thank you.
(COMING SUNDAY: "To afford presents, we might have to go into politics")