31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Thanksgiving A Great Time For a Gratitude List

Single With Children: Thanksgiving a time for life's accounting

By: Susie Parker
Publication Date: 11/24/04

Can we really be just one day away from Thanksgiving 2004?

I hope tomorrow will find all of you sitting down to a roasted turkey, ham or whatever it is that tastes like Thanksgiving to you.

More important than the menu, what are the things you feel most grateful for on this special, most decidedly American holiday?

My gratitude list is composed of blessings that have visited me this year, though I'm certain most of these gifts are the result of unmerited grace. God has always been far more generous than I have come close to deserving, but this year has been particularly abundant.

I am thankful that my family is alive, healthy and, for the most part, happy. We have had our share of challenges, detours and exasperation, but I like to think that probably means we are living full, colorful lives. OK, so there are some days I could do with a little less color. But last time I checked, we were all still speaking to each other, so that has to count for something.

Last week I received one of those scary phone calls that parents never want to hear. My daughter's apartment had caught fire. She arrived home from work to find firefighters and her next-door neighbors working frantically to extinguish the blaze. Fortunately, the damage was confined to only a couple of rooms. Her DVD and CD collection, as well as most of her electronics, were melted and she will probably never be able to rid her belongings of the smell of smoke. But no one was injured and no lives were lost.

It is amazing how something like a fire, accident or sudden illness can put things in proper perspective. All the situations that feel so huge are suddenly reduced to their more realistic, modest size. Potentially life-threatening situations create reality checks. Of course, sometimes I still see red when I notice that a certain young man hasn't taken care of his pets, but those oversights don't trigger a torrent of terror. I have a feeling that minor annoyances are a sign of a fairly calm and easy life - if you have the time to notice, your mind must not be troubled with issues that are more serious.

I know more than a few people who would give anything if all they had to worry about was the inconvenience of a dirty litter box or a sink full of dirty dishes. When compared with waiting for medical test results or the possibility of unemployment, it really is a no-brainer.

Two more items on my list of things to be thankful for go by the name of Mom and Dad or, depending on kinship, granny and pops. My 80-year-old mother and 79-year-old father are in the most amazing shape, both mentally and physically, and every day my kids and I are allowed to enjoy their love, kindness and example, is an incomparable gift.

The marriage they have tended for more than 57 years is a testament to the durability and power of the kind of love that so many of us sometimes question the existence of. They are a living reminder that it really is possible to live happily ever after.

When I was considering all the things that deserve honorable mention on my list of things to be thankful for, I realized many of them are born out of a certain amount of adversity. Without some of my more trying and challenging times, I would never understand how precious and dependable are these folks I call my friends. A few melted home furnishings remind me how fragile human life is and how blessed we are that the lost items are replaceable. A bedroom with everything out of place forces me to remember how grateful I am that I still have my son around.

This Thanksgiving, if you're having trouble coming up with items to add to your gratitude list, look no further than the folks around your table, the animals under your table hoping you'll be generous with a handout, and the friends who live on the next block or in the next state. Think of all the things that could have gone wrong this past year, and rejoice in the fact that they didn't.

Remember those dark times and challenges and, in the very next thought, think of those people who were quick with a flashlight and extended their hands so you wouldn't have to wring yours.

Thanksgiving is a great time to maximize our gratitude list and minimize the things and people we take for granted. Rather than assume people know how you feel about them, leave no doubt.

I wish each of you a happy, healthy and very blessed Thanksgiving.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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