I admit it. I take much too much for granted. I’m not the most thankful person in the world. I get busy and preoccupied with life and often don’t stop to express gratitude for my blessings.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m pausing to describe just some of the blessings for which I’m so very thankful as the year draws to a close.
My wife. In less than a month, Cindy and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. I don’t tell her often enough how much I love her and just how profoundly she has enriched my life. I know few people who have a deeper faith in God and almost no one who is more dedicated to the well-being of others.
What I know about being a good friend, I learned mostly from Cindy. Much of what I know about grace and selfless devotion, I learned from her, too.
To be Cindy’s friend is to win a lottery of sorts. If you’re ever in trouble or despair, trust me, you really want Cindy as your friend. She’ll be there for you in your darkest hours and won’t leave your side. And she will pray for you in the deepest ways.
Cindy’s capacity for loyalty and love is a thing of wonder. And can I tell you how unbelievably wise she is?
I’m so thankful that I get to share a life with someone so amazing. She is beautiful to me in every way.
My parents. I’m thankful for my parents. They not only provided a secure and loving home, they gave me the faith that sustains me today. Every passing year makes me more grateful for the foundation they built for me in those early years. I’m grateful to have had something so strong upon which to build my own faith in my adult years.
My dad has been gone for more than four years now, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him. I’m thankful that my mother is still very much a part of our lives, in good health and just a phone call or airplane ride away.
My children. My children bring me so much joy. They make me laugh, and cry. They keep me up late at night worrying about what we will do once they start driving. Sometimes, when Cindy takes them to Lafayette for a few days, I briefly rejoice at my good fortune of having the house all to myself for a day or two. But after a few hours, I’m lonely. I find I don’t like the solitude for very long. As I write this, my daughter is doing cartwheels in our bedroom. Boom, boom, bang. My son is squealing downstairs as he plays a video game. I love it! Truth be told, sometimes the kids’ sounds disturb me as I write or wake me as I sleep. But it’s a small price to pay for all the other sounds that make life so much richer. I cannot imagine how we will survive once they go off to college and the house falls silent.
I’m also so very thankful for the unforgettable trip to Turkey my daughter and I took last summer. Hardly a day goes by that she and I don’t share some memory of that amazing sojourn. It changed her life, and mine. And it created a lasting bond between us. I’m so very grateful that we had that experience and I cannot wait to travel with her again.
Aly. Speaking of children, I sometimes feel that I have been blessed with a third child in my former student, and now dear friend, Aly Neel. It was more than four years that Aly appeared in one of my classes. I immediately knew she was an extraordinary person. What I didn’t immediately realize, however, was what an important part of my life she would become. And how much she would mean to all of us, especially my daughter, who worships her and was thrilled to room with her the entire time we spent in Turkey. I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished in Turkey and so confident that this remarkable young woman will change the world.
Friends. I cannot begin to list them here, but I’m so grateful for the loyalty of so many friends, new and old. The older I become, the more I’m grateful for the friendship of people who’ve known me for decades, who fully understand all of my many shortcomings and failures, but who love me nonetheless.
Mentors. I’m very grateful for the many people in my life who have shown me the way. These people devoted themselves in various ways to my education and development in my youth and young adulthood. I’m a better person because of them. I know I’ll accidentally omit someone, but I’ll take the risk: Bessie Cornelius, H. Lynn Russell, Richard Baxter, Dave Norris, and Roger Guissinger.
Clyde Taylor. When I was a young, fledgling writer, struggling to figure out how to research and write my first book, Clyde Taylor took me under his wing, got me a book contract and became not only my literary agent but also a valued friend.
Clyde died far too early in life. Not too many days pass that I don’t think about him and wish that I could call him up and talk politics for an hour or so. He died long before Barack Obama came on the scene. My, how he would have loved it when Obama was first elected president! I miss Clyde so much, but am so thankful for the time I knew him and for the way he changed by life by helping me to become a published writer.
I could write another two thousand words of gratitude about so much else, but I’m also thankful for the gift of brevity.
So, I will close with a few words of thanks for my church, First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. Cindy and I joined this unbelievable congregation about 18 years ago. It has become our second home and the place where I fully re-learned and re-discovered my faith. And now we have two 13-year-old children, who are learning the faith, sitting at the feet of devoted Sunday School teachers and caring, inspirational youth leaders. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the support, the friendship and prayers of the dear people of faith who belong to this marvelous church. What an endless font of blessings.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I give thanks for all the ways I’m blessed. I don’t deserve my blessings, but I’ll gladly accept them as signs of God’s amazing grace.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Postscript: I said I would do it — and I did. I neglected to mention several other dear friends who mentored me in various ways. Not least among them is Stan Tiner, who not only taught me so much about journalism, but also life; and then there are my two political mentors, who taught me so much about the importance of civility in politics and public life — Senators Russell Long and John Breaux.
- Thanksgiving Day: The one blessing we overlook (mattforrest.wordpress.com)