As it seems our Thanksgivings get closer and smaller, I find my blessings get greater with every new year so, as I pause to reflect on the goodness and wonder of our holiday, allow me to resume my custom of sharing some of the reasons why I am thankful:
I AM THANKFUL when everything just seems to work out in the end … be it a family crisis, an adventure movie, a mystery book, a minor surgery, or a fine meal.
I AM THANKUL for the Social Security Administration and, despite what you may hear, the people there who really care for others. Some of our finest people put their hearts and souls into the place.
I AM THANKFUL that I was sitting next to retired Tennessee State Supreme Court Judge Mickey Barker at Ben Haden’s funeral. When I remarked that surely it was one of the biggest funerals in Chattanooga history, the judge volleyed back with a wry grin, “Your funeral will be bigger … too many people will want to make sure you are dead!”
I AM THANKFUL Butch Jones is at the helm of Tennessee’s football team and every day he tells the players, “What are you selling today? Face it; you are either going to be the fountain or the drain. Be big! Be the best!”
I AM THANKFUL for the heart of horse trainer Kathy Ritvo, who earlier this month became the first woman to ever saddle a Breeder’s Cup Classic winner, Mucho Macho Man. You see, her heart is as special as her horse. Kathy had a heart transplant several years ago and, when her magnificent horse won the Breeder’s Cup, the first thing she did was to thank “the selfless people who donated the organs of their loved one to give me a second chance.”
I AM THANKFUL that as the Q Train rumbled up the line leaving New York City several weeks ago, an anonymous rider spied a young black man who was wearing a dark-colored hoodie as he dozed off to sleep. He was sitting next to a middle-aged white man, who was obviously Jewish due to the yarmulke on his head. The black guy ever so slowly slumped onto the Jewish man’s shoulder and a picture showing the scene – the white man neither moving nor protesting – has flashed over the web in a testimony of mankind’s true goodness. After the picture was taken, the anonymous photographer quietly asked Isaac Theil (who was quickly identified after the photo went viral and was seen in newspapers everywhere) if he wanted him to ask the boy to move and the soft-spoken Jew with the equally-soft shoulder shook his head and replied, “'He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We've all been there, right?'" When the photographer exited the train some 20 minutes later, neither the sleeping black boy nor the elderly white man had moved … yet it appeared both were slightly smiling.
I AM THANKFUL that when Alabama football coach Nick Saban was profiled on the TV show “60 Minutes,” he let us in on an American truth, “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people,” he said. Know this, Saban is an expert on recognizing the difference.
I AM THANKFUL for three beautiful Boston cops who were on the cover of Sports Illustrated not once but two different times this year. The first, appearing April 22, is very much an action photo as they were shown racing – guns drawn -- to bravely help a fallen runner just seconds after the bombs exploded at this year’s Boston Marathon. The second, appearing on the cover of the Nov. 11 issue, was more of a tribute to “Boston Strong” where the three beaming officers are shown in Fenway Park, the home of the newly-crowned world champion Red Sox, and this time “Big Papi” Ortiz was the one holding the bat.
I AM THANKFUL for an occasional pickled peach, pickled beet, pickled okra, pickled green bean and a kosher pickle, but never at the same time.
I AM THANKFUL for “three things that shine before the world and cannot be hidden -- the moon, the sun, and the truth.” (I thought Bhudda said it, too, but have since learned the source is unknown.)
I AM THANKFUL for clever riddles like this one: What word has seven letters, preceded God, is greater than God, is more evil than the devil … all poor people have it, wealthy people need it, and if you eat it, you will die? Believe it or not, it was reported that a group of Stanford graduates was asked the question and only 5 percent answered correctly. C’mon, try to figure it out, and before you finish reading today’s story I will thankfully share the answer.
I AM THANKFUL that a full 60 years ago, when I made my first visit to Dr. Hiram Laws, the dentist, he gave me a shiny dime for being a good boy. Every time I went, up until he retired many years later, I would get a shiny dime. This fall, when I gave my beloved friend a warm hug on the glorious occasion of his 100th birthday, he told me he had hoped I would be there, that he had something for me. From his pocket he drew a shiny dime. Glory!
I AM THANKFUL that down through the years I have been so fortunate to have had people who freely shared their wisdom and warmth with me like Tom Duff, Paul Kelly, David McCallie, Ben Haden, Guy Beatty and such other new saints.
I AM THANKFUL that in a world with the best technology ever known to mankind, and at a time when there is a computer in almost every American house, the No. 1 word or phrase most seen on display screens – this without any doubt – is “Error 404.” That’s the truth! Priceless.
I AM THANKFUL that the answer to the riddle I posed three paragraphs earlier is N-O-T-H-I-N-G. That’s right – the word has seven letters yet nothing preceded God, nothing is greater than God, nothing is more evil than the devil, all poor people have nothing, wealthy people need nothing and, if you eat nothing, you will die. Remember this too; nothing is impossible.
I AM THANKFUL for the “random acts of kindness” we see every day if we just look for them … the Yates Wrecker driver pulling over so the faster traffic can past, Bobby Mason at Rone-Regency Jewelry putting down a one-inch pile of papers to personally fix a watch, the nurse at Erlanger stopping her hurried walk to the parking lot to assist a total stranger in a wheelchair use the restroom. I promise -- look for it and you’ll see it every day.
I AM THANKFUL that the sadness of losing a dog is always trumped by the joy of a new puppy.
I AM THANKFUL for Jay Greeson’s humor, for Bob McKamey’s heart, for Jacob Huesman’s arm, for Mark Schmissrauter’s laugh, for Mitch Mutter’s garden, for Trey Moss’s babies, for Bob Main’s service, for Christie Sells’ wisdom, for Mark Brzezienski’s scapel, for Bill Dudley’s Bible, for Marvin Smith’s boat, and for Simon Parker’s nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy.
I AM THANKFUL when, on a cold night, I have a warm blanket and a snuggling dog.
I AM THANKFUL for my all-time favorite, that the Pilgrims saw a turkey before they found a possum (yes, without an “o” because possum sounds better!)
I AM THANKFUL that it has now been almost a year since Dr. Winston Caine died from cancer complications but that his immense shadow still looms over Erlanger and the UT teaching program, and that, in the hearts of his thousands of patients, he’ll live on a lot longer.
I AM THANKFUL for used-car salesmen; in a recent Gallup survey that listed many professions, if it hadn’t have been for “car salespeople” the “Least-Trusted Profession” would be – you guessed it – “Members of Congress.” Highest on the list is nurses, then pharmacists. Next came – in order -- doctors, engineers, dentists, police officers, college teachers and clergy. (So help me, I know dozens of wonderful people who sell cars!)
I AM THANKFUL that John Wilson has updated his great book on the history of Chattanooga, entitled “Chattanooga’s Story” and, as he goes about delivering the first orders, he seems to sell more than he delivers. Copies are selling for $35 and anybody who loves our city and its people will adore it.
I AM THANKFUL that David Helton, a fabulous human being, also happens to be a football player at Duke and today leads the entire Atlantic Coast Conference – not just his team – in tackles. He has collected 105 so far this season, an average of 9.55 per game, and is being credited as a huge reason the Blue Devils have won nine games this year for the first time since 1941. The former Baylor School standout is a junior and will play at UNC with his teammates this Saturday in a huge game where a Duke win will advance the Blue Devils into next week’s ACC Championship game.
I AM THANKFUL that this summer, when my osteomyelitis got tangled up with my mononucleosis and some bones began breaking, Dr. Melanie Blake knew just what to do and that her husband, Dr. Rhet Blake, handled my pain problems. On top of that my eye surgeon is Dr. Carey Dozier, whose wife Tracy is Melanie’s partner, and he fixed my cataract in a way I can see 20/20.
I AM THANKFUL that I was there this summer when the greatest crowd I have ever witnessed presented a “dream house” to Sgt. Andrew Smith, a Wounded Warrior who lost both legs in Afghanistan, and that I still believe the event has to be the most wonderful moment in our area’s rich history. It was absolutely incredible and I believe that Saint Peter has carefully inscribed the names of each and every person who took part into heaven’s Golden Book.
I AM THANKFUL for Jay-Jay Davenport, Breck Grover, Oop Smith and some other dear buddies are doing just fine as they wage war on cancer and that I was right-as-rain when I promised Tina Wallace that when her hair returned following chemotherapy, it would be so much prettier than it was the first time. Today she is so very beautiful. Wow!
I AM THANKFUL that I just discovered a song, “Once Before I Go,” from the Broadway show “The Boy from Oz” and can now sing along when it comes on my iPod, just like I do with Il Divo’s “Amazing Grace,” Frank Sinatra’s “All The Way” and John Denver’s “Some Days Are Diamonds.”
I AM THANKFUL for the sage departure line, “This isn’t goodbye; just so long until the next time.”
I AM THANKUL for a loving and merciful God and for His endless blessings that we always seem to remember best when a fellow struggler has temporarily lost focus on their own. I hope your Thanksgiving is every bit as meaningful as mine.
Army Sgt. Andrew Smith, a "Wounded Warrior" from Chattanooga whose legs were blown off in Afghanistan, and his wife Tori are shown looking at their new property as over 2,000 people took part in building a house for the hero in just one week this summer. The project was monumental and television commentator Bill O'Reilly was so moved he gave Sgt. Smith the mechanical wheelchair.