Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful

Thursday, November 23, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

You would think that after 40 years of publishing an annual list of things for which I am thankful, I’d be getting to the bottom of it, but it seems the older I get I have found I appreciate so much more around me. I take absolute delight in planting a flower, feeding the birds and throwing a ball for my dog. I find that the more people who I come to know the more who I come to love. I find more things are funny, that I delight in learning new things, too, so here’s what’s on my mind on this special day.

I AM THANKFUL it isn’t lost on me that just two weeks after the Hamilton County Commission approved funding for a new football field at The Howard School, the football team – get this --- hosted a free holiday feast for anybody in the extended neighborhood who walked through the door. What football coach John Starr is teaching his players is far more than football and to feed and embrace the needy is what really wins games on Friday nights. As you might suspect, the players and cheerleaders loved it. We must create more life-chances for our young.

I AM THANKFUL for the very second when I spot my first jonquil in bloom every spring.

I AM THANKFUL I still don’t know which is worse – saying something I shouldn’t have, or not saying something I when I should have.

I AM THANKFUL for anything and everything that moves me to tears. All of us should embrace emotion at least once every day.

I AM THANKFUL the Pilgrims found a turkey before they ever saw a flamingo.

I AM THANKFUL that Chris Howley, the Mayor of Signal Mountain, formed a blue-ribbon committee to study the town’s public schools and that every person was driven by the same want – “better.” No matter what eventually happens, “better” will most assuredly occur.

I AM THANKFUL every time the girls at Baylor and GPS play against each other in anything.

I AM THANKFUL that a full 54 years since President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, well over half of the 325 million people in the United States still believe it was a conspiracy.

I AM THANKFUL that I will miss Dick Spencer, West Oehmig, Johnny Tugman, Blair Carter, Jack Hodges, and so many others before the blessing tomorrow.

I AM THANKFUL that I have kept my longtime vow of never buying anything on “Black Friday” or going to a mall on Thanksgiving weekend. We twisted the reverence and the purpose out of this week long ago.

I AM THANKFUL that Will Healy, who I first met about a week after he was born, has just been named the Coach of the Year at Austin Peay where he guided the Govs to a sensational 8-4 record.  You bet that is a sensational re-birth after the last four years when the school record was 1-45 and they almost gave up the sport.

I AM THANKFUL for the unmatchable smell of “puppy-dog breath.”

I AM THANKFUL for the doctors and nurses who rushed to Erlanger in the very first minutes of the Woodmore tragedy. Understand, the great majority were never called nor summoned but they still came as fast as they could. (Never forget, you can fake you care but you can’t fake showing up.)

I AM THANKFUL that Grant’s Car Wash in East Ridge is the world’s leader in the belief, “Under promise – Over deliver.”

I  AM THANKFUL for Colton Jumper’s tremendous rise to success as a football player at Tennessee.

I AM THANKFUL for the way Kirk Kelly stepped in the breach to do such a commendable job as our interim schools superintendent in darn-near unsurmountable circumstances.

I AM THANKFUL for the legend that anytime you can’t sleep at night, it’s because you are awake in somebody else’s dreams.

I AM THANKFUL for the beautiful picture of a four-year-old boy in fervent prayer and the words, “Dear God, please send clothes for all those poor ladies on grandpa's computer. Amen”

I AM THANKFUL for Herschel Walker, who earned the Heisman Trophy at Georgia, who said earlier this week: “I absolutely think the protests are so upsetting, and I blame the commissioner. I know people are going to be angry when I say it, but he should have stopped the protests at the very beginning … Our flag is very special, and black lives matter, but what we should do is go to Washington after the season and protest there instead. We have young men and women fighting for the flag. And we have to respect the White House.”

I AM THANKFUL that when a semi-truck caught on fire about 3 o’clock Tuesday morning on I-59 near Trenton, the drivers were able to get three huge elephants out of the trailer unharmed but, more so, that the animals were calm and well-behaved. And, oh no, the firefighters will never forget seeing what was waiting beside the fire in the dark.

I AM THANKFUL when the cook remembers to put marshmallows (yes, this is the way my spell-checker swears it is spelled) and pecans in the sweet-potato casserole.

I AM THANKFUL for this quote: “We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea … and you don’t believe in miracles?”

I AM THANKFUL that my childhood neighbor – B.B. Branton – has been confined to a hospital room for four months and has never once complained about anything. What a lesson in faith.

I AM THANKFUL when the cortisone or steroids or whatever they inject at Chattanooga Bone & Joint finally kicks in.

I AM THANKFUL when other drivers use their turn signals but, man, I still ain’t much on honking.

I AM THANKFUL I was sitting next to Cleo as we waited at the driver’s license station when he mused, “You know, if we went out and got some bread, peanut butter and jelly we could make us a killing in here…”

I AM THANKFUL that I know there comes a time when you’ve got to choose between turning the page or closing the book.

And, finally,

I AM THANKFUL that just as I was finishing this year’s edition of ‘Why I Am Thankful,’ one of my Internet buddies provided a copy of an old story that, well … maybe you’d care to share it with others who are sitting with you at today’s table ….

* *  *


A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.

As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, 'What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?'

The young boy was apologetic. 'Please, mister....please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do,' He pleaded. 'I threw the brick because no one else would stop...'

With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the kid pointed to a spot just around a parked car. ‘It's my brother,’ he said. 'He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up.'

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, 'Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me.'

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly-swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts.  A quick look told him everything was going to be okay.

'Thank you and may God bless you,' the grateful child told the stranger.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: 'Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.'

God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don't have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It's our choice to listen or not.

Thought for the day: If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning. Face it, pal, He is crazy about you!

God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

Read this next line very slowly and let it sink in because it is a guarantee...

“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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