Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful

Thursday, November 28, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

For what is now over 40 years, I have made it a tradition to share a ‘Why I Am Thankful’ list every Thanksgiving. It started when I was still a young writer at the late Chattanooga News-Free Press, which my family owned, and has since become more treasured by me than those who read it. Allow me to share my 2019 edition:

I AM THANKFUL for Diet Coke. I drink them all the time and you’ll rarely see me without one. Yet do you realize that this fact alone … standing by itself and without even an asterisk … is enough to convince some in The Legion of the Miserable to believe that, therefore, President Trump, who also enjoys Diet Coke, and I are just alike about everything? Is this what we have become?

I AM THANKFUL that when some learn I never write my annual Thanksgiving list until the day just before, I know better than most that every and each one of them could come up with a much better list of their own in half the time on any given day. 

I AM THANKFUL for the Harrison Ruritan Club for returning a check of $4,000 to the Hamilton County Commission that was intended for Janice Robertson’s glorious program to feed needy kids on weekends.

Whether the Ruritans should have forwarded the money to Janice or given the money back doesn’t matter – it was the right thing to do. Don’t worry – Janice and her Snack Pack angels will still get the money … and it will be in the right way.

I AM THANKFUL for Rene Sprague who, after she and her husband adopted a baby born prematurely in Mobile, Ala., and found the child had severe health problem, forged her way down the uncharted path of mothers with “anomaly babies” (Fetal anomalies include heart defects, skeletal dysplasia, chromosomal abnormalities, and other tragic needs). A nurse, Rene and her blessed little Elijah had 150 doctor visits the first year. So Rene started “The Bridge Program” after she found there were “zero resources” to help such families. Today over 350 families have benefited from “The Bridge” at Mobile’s USA Health Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Oh … and Elijah is now almost 15 years old and a family joy.

I AM THANKFUL for crocus … you know, those little yellow and purple flowers that are always the first sign of winter’s end and spring’s renewal.

I AM THANKFUL for stacks of emails that I get every day from readers who either like or dislike my views. Each is like a new-found rose and only I could get past the guilt that the mere volume prohibits a proper reply, they serve as a constant reminder of what a kind and caring word means to every soul on earth.

I AM THANKFUL that if the Pilgrims were alive today their biggest thanks would be for their age.

I AM THANKFUL for the life’s service of Woody Kennedy, J.J. Dodds, and so many more of my deeply personal heroes. Every time I see an obituary of a dear friend, I am reminded of Sir Isaac Newton’s timeless truth: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." 

I AM THANKFUL for the harsh realization that for every elected official, union organizer, or any judge who accepts a bribe, we should never forget there is an equally-repugnant slime ball who gives it to them.

I AM THANKFUL the State of Tennessee just got an “extra helping” of Federal funding to repair our streets and highways and I’ll be even more thankful when I can be among those who drive on it.

I AM THANKFUL for B.B. Branton who, since he got a grim diagnosis of cancer, has been inducted into two or three Halls of Fame, and that another one of my boys, Mark Wiedmer, is among the newest in the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame.

I AM THANKFUL for the late Jim Valvano’s plea - “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think -- spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day.”

I AM THANKFUL that next Tuesday the State of Tennessee, through its Music Pathways, will erect a marker to honor “Chattanooga’s own” Impressions at the Bessie Smith Hall. One night long, long ago, this before I got my driver’s license, I snuck under the ropes to watch with wondrous eyes when they sang “Amen” with Jerry Butler. They had some great hits – nobody better at “People Get Ready” – but on this particular night Eddie Levert, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash and maybe Jermaine Purifory, who was from up in Cleveland, gave “Amen” its greatest ride, I’m telling you. Those cats on the horns were blowing their lungs out and people were going crazy, nothing ever since like it! I saw Elvis twice back in the day … Sinatra several times and Streisand, too, but I’ll go the rest of my life holding the belief that “Amen” that night was the greatest stage performance of any song by any artists I have ever witnessed. (The word is Sam and Fred will be at Tuesday’s 10 a.m. presentation.)

I AM THANKFUL that, so far and only with the help of the Lord, I have withstood the great temptation to look into buying a showroom new 2019 Corvette. With the totally-redesigned 2020 mid-engine model ready for its debut, there has never been a time when a man can get a better value on what I believe is easily among the most technically-advanced automobiles in the world. I’m talking about ‘born to run.’ Sure, the 2020 debut will plunge the 1999’s resale value but my thinking is I would still have a pedigreed beast for the rest of my life. Then again, the way I would drive 650 horsepower would make my death imminent. Devil, stay away from me.

I AM THANKFUL for my daily 3-dose cocktail of Duricef, Penicillin, and Doxycycline. Twice-a-day will do it.

I AM THANKFUL that since I started my annual Thanksgiving tradition over 40 years ago, nothing has come along to unseat the crowd’s favorite year after year: “I am thankful the Pilgrims found a turkey before they saw an opossum.”

I AM THANKFUL that when today’s batch of surgical nurses ask for my list of allergies and I say, “White Shoulders … makes me do unbelievable things,” most of them are now too young to know there was once a ladies perfume by that name that perennially got me into more trouble than any alcohol or drugs reaction ever could.

I AM THANKFUL that ‘little stuff’ doesn’t bother me much anymore. Yesterday about 9 o’clock I wrapped the bandages on my sick knee with a garbage bag to keep them from getting wet in the shower. My mind got occupied with bigger stuff and late yesterday afternoon when a visitor asked why I was wearing the garbage bag that I’d been tripping on most of the day, it didn’t seem strange to me at all.

I AM THANKFUL for the wonderful answer to a Navy Commander who will forever be red-faced after the ultimate sea encounter. To listen please CLICK HERE.

I AM THANKFUL for the bravery of this turkey of a crossing guard. CLICK HERE.


I AM THANKFUL for this poem, written by Alberto Rios, who is not only the Poet Laureate of Arizona but the current Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets:

* * *


One river gives

His Journey to the next.

- - -

We give because someone gave to us.

We give because nobody gave to us.

- - -

We give because giving has changed us.

We give because giving could have changed us.

- - -

We have been better for it.

We have been wounded by it.

- - -

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,

Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

- - -

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,

But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

- - -

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,

Mine to yours, yours to mine.

- - -

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.

Together we are simply green. You gave me

- - -

What you did not have, and I gave you

What I had to give – together, we made

- - -

Something greater from the difference.

* * *

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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