A friend said to me this week, “There’s so much bad news going on right now. Why don’t you write something looking forward to Thanksgiving and listing what people have to be thankful for this year?”

I pondered that a bit, but finally came to the conclusion that this is not a year I want to tell other people what should give them cause for thanks.

But I can say what I feel thankful about, and perhaps some of you will join me in what I value most at this time of year.

• First, I am thankful for the desire to give thanks, and that we still have a day set aside for that specific purpose.

In a culture that often seems centered around the Imperial Self, the idea that there is something — or Someone — outside ourselves to whom thanks is owed is precious and irreplaceable.

It’s too easy to think that we ourselves are the source of the good things in our lives (and yes, some of us have more material goods than others), but it’s extremely important to be able to see that many things that are good can’t be ordered on the Internet because they don’t have dollar signs attached.

“Priceless” is a word with more than one meaning, and anyone of any background or income level can possess what it describes if they wish to explore its full range of possibilities.

• In that context, I’m grateful to have been blessed with sufficient resources that I am able to share them with others.

As a believer in the adage that giving counts the most when it’s done face to face, most of the goods and money I distribute go to local institutions, not least my own church’s food bank, the local Salvation Army chapter, Portland’s crisis pregnancy center and a number of statewide charities.

• Scripture says you are blessed if you live to see your children’s children (Psalm 128), and our seven grandchildren (with another on the way) rank at the top of what will be offered up in praise in the days to come.

Seeing a little girl’s face light up as she runs to wrap her arms around your legs, or play catch with a boy who throws better (and harder) than you do, is beyond any award or honor the workaday world has to offer.

And then there are their parents, all grown up and making their way in the world — not without challenges, and some pain and suffering, but nihil sine labore is a truism so old it first was written in Latin: “Nothing (is achieved) without effort.”

It is far better that they are working for what they want than that someone just gives it to them, and the pride they can justly take in their accomplishments is only exceeded by the pride I take in them.

• This may seem a bit silly, but animals give me a lot of pleasure, both the tame ones inside and the wild ones who visit the yard. The dog brought into the house the ball I throw for her outside without me noticing it, and had it chewed into two pieces before I saw what she had.

When she left the pieces on the floor, one of the cats started batting one of them around. As soon as the dog saw the cat playing with her ball, she ran over, took it away and promptly chewed it into tiny bits.

I chuckled at that, and got another grin when my wife and I were out back the next day refilling the bird feeders. Suddenly, a chickadee flew by an inch from my ear with a sharp “cheep!” that unmistakably meant, “Get a move on, you lazy dolt, I’m hungry! Winter is coming!”

Remembering the dog and the bird made we wonder if God grins at our foibles the way I smiled at theirs. Probably, he does — when he’s not laughing out loud. (You just thought it was distant thunder….)

• Finally, I was at a gathering the other day and a woman came up to me and said, “You really need to have them get a new photo for your column. You really are much more handsome than that photo makes you out to be.”

The poor dear may just need a new prescription for her glasses, but you don’t get lifts like that every day (or, in my case, every decade), so I blessed her for it.

To balance the scales, I once told the kids in one of the high school classes I teach that something I remembered was so old that “It didn’t happen in this century.”

To which one of the little wiseacres quipped, “Yeah, or in this millennium, either.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected].

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