“How to Be Thankful,” Dec. 20, 2022

Lately I’ve been thinking about gifts. Not just the gifts we wrap in paper and give to people who don’t need them. But all the gifts we are given that make life such a pleasure and enable us to give back in some way to the world.

Yesterday, my older son sent me a video of 19-months-old Leilani, learning to fly.

They were playing at a park when Leilani ran over to the swings. But instead of asking for help to climb onto the swing’s seat, she leaned over it to lie on her belly. Then she lifted her feet, spread her arms like wings and sailed back and forth.

“Are you flying?” said her dad.

She beamed up at him with pride and yelled, “Yeah!”

Then I heard my boy’s familiar laugh, a waterfall of delight.

That video was two priceless gifts in one: The sight of a little girl taking wing, and the sound of her daddy’s laughter.

I thought of what my mother would say when she had barely enough money to buy groceries: “The best gifts in life can’t be bought. God gives them free and clear to a grateful heart.”

Today I awoke to another gift: Rain. Enough rain to soak the Earth without washing us away.

I once took rain for granted. Never again. After recent years of little rainfall, we keep a bag packed, ready to go, in case we need to run from a wildfire.

If you live in a drought-prone place like California, you learn to appreciate rain. If you want to complain about it, you keep the complaints to yourself.

We often fail to appreciate people and things that mean so much to us, until one day, we realize we don’t have them any more. But there’s a simple way to show appreciation before it’s too late: Just say “thank you.”

Gratitude changes everything, both around us and within us. It opens our hearts and minds and souls to freely give and receive.

More than an awareness, it takes determination to show true gratitude — to feel it, say it and mean it with all our being.

What does it mean to you when someone thanks you for something you’ve done? It helps, doesn’t it? It may even make you want to do it again.

One summer, years ago, I flew back to the South to visit my stepfather, John. We’d had a rough spell in our family, losing in a painfully short span of time my mother, my husband and my brother Joe’s wife, all to cancer.

John now lived alone in the house we all once shared. One evening he and I sat on the porch sipping iced tea as we had often done on hot summer nights.

Thunder rumbled on the mountains. Lightning bugs glittered in the yard. A scent of honeysuckle filled the air.

We traded questions, catching up on the family. Finally, I said, “So, how are you doing in this big house without mama?”

John took a minute, rocking slowly, staring at nothing. Then he cleared his throat to speak.

“It’s hard,” he said. “We didn’t always get along. But I still miss her. I reckon I always will.”

I nodded and he smiled.

“But you know,” he said, “this is a good time in our family. Everybody’s got work. Nobody’s got cancer. We’re all doing the best we can. We need to be thankful and remember it.”

A year later, John was gone. But his words to me that night were a gift I’ll always treasure.

We make the world a better place by being better people _ kinder, gentler, slow to judge, quick to offer grace _ and by practicing gratitude.

All families have hard times. We prop each other up, pray for strength and do the best we can.

But we also have countless good times to remind us we’re a family and give us stories to tell our children who’ll pass them on for generations to come.

This is a good time for me and my family. I hope it’s a good time for you and yours. Thank you for reading my words.

It’s a gift I’ll never take for granted.


  1. As I recall, it was Cicero’s line from across the centuries that will always resonant with me: gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, it is the parent of all the others.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Always a joy to read your words :-). I took my “sled” over the hill last week to deliver all the Christmas gifts and gave the princess a break—taking her four to the park. Three year old Charlotte went right to “flying” on the swings. Those toddlers love to fly 😂😂

    Hoping you and all the family have a blessed Christmas and a very Happy 2023.

  3. thank you…

  4. Christine Hetherington says

    Was just thinking about you and your thoughtful columns, I must have missed a few in the busy gardening season & preparing for the holidays. This is spot-on and so very much needed. Merry Christmas, with my sincere thanks for brightening and enriching my life & that of so many others over these years. Chris in Ohio

  5. Linda Taylor says

    Your mama and stepfather left you with wise words and I am thankful that you shared them with us! The pandemic and now caring for my elderly parents has taught me to extend grace more often, as well as to be grateful for what I have. Thank you for sharing your writing with us!

  6. Merry Christmas Sharon to you and yours. It is indeed a good time in our family. We are abundantly blessed and I am immeasurably grateful. Your thoughts and words are a gift you share with all those who read them. I am thankful for your words.

  7. Katie Musgrave says

    I am thankful for God’s blessings, protection, & provision of His mercy & grace…most of all his gift of Jesus who gives us Salvation! I am also grateful for you, Sharon, and your truthful writings of pure love. Merry Christmas!

  8. Your advice is a gift to us all. It is so true that all families have problems even if they don’t share them. Ours is a very small community so all of us look out for each other. Our family had their Christmas gathering on this past Sunday & three of our four kids were with some of their family. Our daughter organizes the gatherings now & sees that we have what we need, she is a blessing for sure. We’re supposed to have frigid cold with ice, then snow on top of that. We will get errands run tomorrow we trust. God Bless you & yours & have a Merry Christmas. Keep writing please. We love being inspired by you.

  9. Georgiann Manz says

    It’s always a joy to read what you have put from your heart to the written word. Thank you – I’ve been reading for over 20 years now thanks to the Independence/Blue Springs Missouri Examiner and now Facebook.
    Merry Christmas!

  10. Patty Morgan says

    Merry Christmas Ms Sharon! Your words were and are something l so enjoy reading every time I’m blessed to find it! I love your stories very much 💕

  11. Dick Daniel says

    Thank you for the gift of your words. They are a joy to read.

  12. Thank you for writing your heart to us, Sharon!!! Merry CHRISTmas!!! 🎄💚🎄

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