“A Thanksgiving List,” Nov. 16, 2021

Today I am getting an early start on my Thanksgiving tradition of writing a list of things for which I’m thankful. It’s a long list. The older I get, it keeps getting longer.

I started the tradition when I was 8, at the suggestion of my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Farrar, a lovely woman I greatly admired. I hoped to be just like her someday. And I still do.

The length of the list varies depending on how much time and thought I give it. Gratitude is like a well-tended crop. It needs time and care to grow.

I’m sorry to admit this, but there were a few years when I didn’t keep the tradition. I’d get distracted somehow (I do that a lot) and forget all about the list. I meant well, but sometimes meaning well is not enough.

Then I’d remember it suddenly at the last minute—say, on Thanksgiving Day, with a houseful of hungry people, when I was taking the turkey out of the oven and trying to recall if I owned a carving knife, and if so, where exactly did I put it?

So instead of making a written list, I’d make a quick mental note to do it later, after dinner was done, the kitchen was clean and my family was snoring in a turkey coma. Then I’d fall into bed and forget all about it until the next Thanksgiving.

That’s not to say I didn’t give thanks for a year. I give thanks every day. I bet you do, too. With so much to be thankful for, how can we not? But I only do a written list at Thanksgiving—if I don’t get distracted and forget. I wish I had saved all those lists. No doubt, they included things I’m always thankful for: Family and friends, health and happiness, God’s abundant grace and peace and joy.

But they might’ve included a few more details such as, “I’m thankful I didn’t drown when I tried to swim across that lake and was too proud to yell for help.” Or “I’m thankful my brother forgave me and didn’t bleed to death when I tripped him on the barbed wire fence.” Or “I’m thankful I didn’t go to that alligator farm in Florida, and marry What’s His Name.”

Anyhow. Here’s a gift I’d like to share with you. My grandson, Wiley, in third grade, recently wrote the following essay:

“Someday I will be a professional basketball player and make 1,000 shots in a row. Someday I will be an artist and paint all my favorite things. Someday I will be the president of the U.S. and live in the White House. But today, I have to clean my room.”

Wiley’s delightful essay has inspired me to tell you this:

Someday I will be a better person, just like Mrs. Farrar. Someday I’ll own a carving knife and never forget where I put it. Someday I’ll spend more time on the people and things I love, and less time being distracted.

But today I have to stop and take time to be thankful. And put it in writing. Here goes:

I’m thankful, as always, for family and friends, health and happiness and God’s abundant grace and peace and joy.

I’m thankful my husband and I can celebrate Thanksgiving, once again, with most of our children and grandchildren and a few special friends.

I’m thankful for far more than I could ever fit in a column. For the chance to write my stories. For editors who publish them. And for readers, like you, who read them and tell me that my stories are your stories, too.

This Thanksgiving, I will set four tables: Three in my daughter’s dining room (she’s hosting, bless her.) And one “big table” in my heart for family and friends, living or long departed, who will be with us in spirit only, but never forgotten.

I’ll set a place for you at that “big table.” Maybe you’ll set one for me. Here’s wishing us all a year of true gratitude and many more Thanksgivings to come.


  1. Thanksgiving has always been a quiet holiday as my children are with their Dad. But, it is a day for me to pause, pray, and reflect on how blessed I am. It starts with a lovely mass, where the focus is on the blessings of life. Then I have the choice of accepting invitations or just taking the day for myself, which I do most often.
    Life is often not in my control, so to have a day to hike, read, reflect is truly a blessing I am so grateful for.
    So, not so traditional, but it is my “tradition “.

  2. Thankful that you share your stories every week! Wiley’s essay is precious! Such big dreams!! This will be a tough Thanksgiving…our first without our beloved husband, stepdad & papa!! Thankful that my kids will be here to help me through it! Blessings to you and your family!!

  3. Susan Kovarick says

    Thanks to you, I will use the “set a big table in my heart…” when I give the blessing Thanksgiving day here at Atterdag Village, Solvang, CA ,a very special place filled with special people.

  4. Love your writings. So often they describe our family. They will be gathering at our daughter’s home Lord willing. We are especially thankful that our 5 yr old great grandson recovered from covid quickly. We are not morning people so we enjoy the beautiful sunsets. God has truly blessed us this year and we are thankful. God bless you & yours. Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours.

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Blessings on you and all the kids, grands and dear ones 😊. This morning I pulled up the shades before sunrise… maybe 5:30 am or so… and was treated to the most brilliant bright pink sunrise I have ever seen. The Good God sure can paint a sky! Had to thank Him for that. My dad had his stroke at about my age so every day I’m thankful for good health… and honestly being able to “take care” of myself. And, like you, I am sooooo grateful for a daughter who will host most of the 28 of us…and for her brothers and sisters-in-law who will do all the cooking and cleanup while I play with grandkids 😊. We sure have much to be thankful for…. Yes?

  6. Janet Rogers says

    So thankful for the blessings we receive every day! Nothing is too small to give thanks for…God is so good! PS…I loved Wiley’s essay!

  7. Dick Daniel says

    Thank you, and I will. (Set a place.)

  8. Katie Musgrave says


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