“Thanksgiving 2017,” Nov. 14, 2017

Say thank you. That’s the first command I drilled into my children. They’d comply in their baby-speak with something that sounded a bit like “thank you.”

Other commands met with less success: Get off that roof. Stop hitting your brother. Do not put the dog in the dryer. Be home by midnight, or else.

If you’re a parent, much of what you say to your children seems to fall on deaf ears. Then one day your kids grow up and you hear them repeat those same things to your grandkids.

Recently, it was my pleasure to hear my youngest say to his youngest, “No shrieking!”

I hope I’m still here when he tries to teach her how to drive.

Of all that I’ve tried to teach my children, few things matter more to me than gratitude.

“You need to say thank you,” I often told them, “and you need to say it like you mean it.”

That’s also true for “I’m sorry,” “I’m fine” and “I love you.” If you can’t say something like you mean it, chances are you don’t.

Gratitude changes everything. The one who is thanked feels appreciated. The one who is thankful is healed, transformed from a state of need to a state of grace. And everything around them — the people they love, the air they breathe and the time they share — will be blessed.

Most of what I know about gratitude I learned in the four years my first husband battled cancer. At times, I felt hopeless and abandoned. I kept thinking, “Why is this happening to us?”

When I confessed that to a friend, she said, “List five things you’re thankful for every day. Write them down at night and read them in the morning.”

“What if I don’t feel thankful?”

“Do it anyhow,” she said. “Actions can change feelings.”

So I did it, and it changed me. It didn’t change what we were facing. But it changed me.

By the end of those four years, as the Coach grew weary in body and spirit, I struggled to keep us both afloat. Finally, I gave him a notebook like the lab books he’d required his physics students to keep, and told him, “I want you to record five things that you are thankful for every day.”

“What if I don’t do it?” he said.

“I’ll hide your TV remote.”

So he did it, and it changed him. It didn’t change his illness. But it allowed him to let go of things beyond his control and focus instead on being fully alive in the time that he had left.

Gratitude healed his spirit, even as his body was dying. He often included me on his thankful list, but he always put God first. He said God never threatened to hide his remote.

I’ve told that story many times but I think it’s worth repeating, especially at Thanksgiving.

We shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be thankful. But we are busy and distracted and the world is beset by division, heartache, hatred and fear.

Thanksgiving invites us to join hands with those we love and celebrate our many blessings. It invites us to do other things, too: To make memories. Tell stories. And eat more in a day than we usually eat in a week. But mostly it’s about gratitude.

I asked my grandchildren what they are thankful for. Randy, 7, is thankful for his mom. Wiley, 4, is thankful for his mom and Randy and their family. Eleanor, almost 3, is thankful for her toys. Henry, 6, is thankful for his life. Charlotte, 6, is thankful for pumpkin pie and her brother Archer. And Archer, 9 months, didn’t answer because he was sleeping, with a full belly, in his mama’s arms.

I am thankful for all of them and countless other blessings. This year, as always, I’ll set two tables: One in my daughter’s dining room for loved ones who will be with us; and the other in my heart for those who will be with us in spirit only, living or departed, but not forgotten.

I’ll set a place for you at that second table, and I’ll count on you to set one for me.

On Thanksgiving Day, and every day, let us give thanks. And may the healing power of gratitude fill us to overflowing.


  1. Ruth Campbell says

    This past Sunday, my husband and I were teaching at our church. The topic the Lord gave us was “Training in Gratitude” with the main focus on training through parenting a heart of gratitude in our children. I opened our paper before church on Sunday morning and read your article. It was so on point! I took it with me and quoted portions of it. Thank you so much for this article and for the encouraging way you use your gift with words with so many people.

  2. Vicki Constable says

    Sharon, many of us across the country needed this column. And now, I’m ready to share it with all our family members as a gratitude challenge. In tried and true English-teacher style, small notebooks are bought with your column inside, and I’ll issue an assignment that will be due at Christmas when we are together. That’s time enough to form a habit. I thank God for the wisdom of your columns — may He bless you and yours during this time of Thanksgiving.

  3. Jimmy Parkerson says

    Thank you for your column on “Gratitude”. So many times I have failed to express gratitude to family and others. Your reminder is a gift from God, thru you, to me. I will now be a better and more thankful person as a result.

  4. Beautiful Thanksgiving week column. Thankful for you!!! Happy Thanksgiving and

  5. Reading your article is like visiting an old friend I’ve never met…when I lived in Pacific Grove and read your column every week for years, your perspectives were so bone honest and encouraging. Now I live in Spokane, Wa and a friend posted this on her Facebook page. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Sharon…and continue to use the gifts God has given you to share from your heart.

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    Attitude of gratitude… the only way to live. Well, I just got my orders from #3 son…. “bring rolls and salad for 23 – 9 are children.” Duh, I didn’t know that… they are MY grandchildren son ? He’s just so organized!
    I will tell him to set extra places for you and yours, that will throw him right into a tizzy ?

    Blessings on all your family this Thanksgiving.

  7. Marci Humphreys says

    I have had some pretty rough times lately and through my life, but who hasn’t? Your Thanksgiving column made me realize that I have many things to be thankful for. I decided I’m going to start everyday telling myself at least 3 things I’m thankful for. Then I’m going to make a special effort to be a kinder person everyday. So far it’s working great (one day out). Thank you for inspiring me on a regular basis. I’ll set a place for you at my Thanksgiving table too. And I resolve to be kind to that particular relative who always gets under my skin. Blessings to you on Thanksgiving and always.

  8. Nancy Quackenbush says

    You are a blessing, Sharon…..Thank You. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  9. Mary Ann Pavlik says

    You have enriched my Tuesday’s every week for many years as I read your columns in the Norfolk Daily News from Norfolk, NE. Thank you most kindly for saying the things I so love reading and often think of myself but don’t know how to express as well. You are such a blessing to us all! Thank you many times over???♥️

  10. Anna K Landers says

    Thanks for the gift you share.

  11. Anna K Landers says

    I am thankful to be included in your topic. I always feel like you are a true treasure from Landrum.

  12. Elaine McCaffery says

    You warm my heart with every column. I feel like when I read your words, you renew my spirit. My soul needs a good reminding of the good things in life, and to be thankful. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Speechless it is so right and true. Gratitude removes all anger, jealousy, hurt, and pain. It opens the door to love instead. As always, your columns inspire and uplift my soul!

  14. Words to be reminded and best of all live by!!! Thank you from my heart!

  15. Laura Lindahl says

    Gratitude is a beautiful thing, wherever it is found.
    Thank you for your consistently beautiful blogs which inspire and enrich your readers. I look forward to them each week; they make my week. Thank you for being a bright, and funny, and thoughtful influence in the world….lightening hearts and bringing smiles.
    God bless you and your sweet family as you count and appreciate your many blessings.
    Thank you, Sharon. You are the best.

  16. I so look forward to your column every week in our Sunday paper. This is such a wonderful article for Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for for my family and close friends that I still have left. Since 2002 I have lost all my family except my youngest brother and mt very best friend of 43 yrs. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas I am so thankful for my daughters and grandchildren and also it brings tears to think of those I’ve lost who should still be my side. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

  17. Sarah Christopher says

    Remley and I are thankful for the joy and thoughtfulness and great memories you bring into our lives through your columns. God bless you and your family.

  18. Marjorie Weiss says

    So beautifully said. This brought tears to my eyes as I read it. Thank you for sharing with

  19. Sue Summers says

    I have never really thought of doing that, I think its a wonderful idea.

  20. Betty McNall says

    I’ll be there in spirit, as my husband has a heart conversion the next week to try and get his heart in rythum again, so not traveling. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  21. I look forward to your words of wisdom every week! Thank you for sharing your words! Praying you have a blessed Thanksgiving!!

  22. Dick Daniel says

    Absolutely wonderful.

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