November 23, 2000: A Day to Count My Blessings

Why set aside a single day to be thankful?

If any people on earth should be constantly focused on our blessings, we are the ones.  Therefore, by the power vested in me, I declare this Thanksgiving Year.  I hope retail merchants don’t take this as an excuse for a year-round Christmas selling season.  Who wants to see Chia pets and electric foot massagers in July?  But take all year – not just a day – to think about all that is good in your life.

I am thankful for health.  Life is fragile.  A bout of cancer six years ago should have taught me that but two months after surgery, I was back at work dealing with issues I thought would mean the end of civilization as we know it.  I have a hard time now remembering what those problems were.

I am thankful for family.  I have a wonderful mate and two great kids who married well and produced four grandsons.  It would require all of this page and most of the next to tell my grandsons what they have done for my life.  It’s true — grandchildren are the reward for having survived your children’s teenage years.

I am thankful for my country.  Somehow we have let patriotism fall out of favor and that is a shame.  I grieve to see kids – and some adults – not remove their hat during the National Anthem.  They should be forced to walk the cemeteries at Normandy and see what some people gave up so they could be disrespectful.  I’m also tired of all the complaining about what is wrong with our country.  We’re doing just fine, thank you.

I am thankful I live in a state where “Georgia On My Mind” is the official song.  (Can you imagine “Nebraska On My Mind”?)  However, I would like to see a law passed that only Ray Charles or Willie Nelson may sing it.  The song is too sacred to be placed in the hands of mere mortals.

I am thankful for Billy Payne, a decent man who did immeasurable good for our state by bringing the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Georgia.  His reward was vilification by the Atlanta newspapers and a lack of gratitude from the snoots at the International Olympic Committee.  History will treat him as a hero and his detractors won’t even rate a footnote.

I am thankful for the people who do the little things we take for granted.  They deliver our mail, pick up our trash, cut our grass, eliminate the strange noises in our automobiles and stop the leaks in our faucets.  God bless them one and all.

I am thankful for the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island.  It is heaven on earth.  The corn-fried shrimp isn’t bad, either.

I am thankful for Wally Bunn and John Clendenin and Bob Holder and Jasper Dorsey, mentors all.  They took a know-it-all and showed him he didn’t know it all.  My Dad used to say that you don’t have to be smart; you just have to know who is smarter than you.  With these four, it is no contest.

I am thankful for loyal friends who encourage me when I need it and who stand with me in good times and bad.  Why they care, I don’t know.  I am just grateful they do.

I am thankful for teachers – including the two in my family – police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians.  We don’t pay them squat but, thank goodness, they give it their all.

I am thankful for my minister, Gil Watson.  He makes you want to go to church.  I just wish he would preach at least one sermon where I didn’t feel like he was talking about me.

I am thankful for the University of Georgia.  I can never repay my alma mater for all it has done for me.  When I die, if I don’t qualify for heaven – a real possibility – I will settle for Athens on a beautiful, crisp fall afternoon.

I am thankful for people who hold public office.  The vast majority are honest, decent people trying to make a difference.  We tend to lump them all with the few bad apples.  That’s not fair.

Finally, I am thankful for freedom of expression.  I say what I believe and you tell me quickly whether or not you agree.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It is called democracy.

The list is endless but not the space.  Thank you.