Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I can’t remember the first time I wrote a list of “Why I am Thankful” but it is a personal tradition with me. Every year, as I sit down on this cherished day, I am thankful that I have never run out of an abundance of reasons I am so blessed. A friend sent me a copy of my 1986 version the other day and there was my all-time favorite: “I am thankful the Pilgrims saw a turkey before they spied an opossum.” So as I pause before the blessing is said at the heavy-laden table, here are some of the things that will go through my head this year:

I AM THANKFUL for the elderly gentleman who still eats breakfast with his wife each and every morning at 9 a.m. in her Alzheimer’s unit. Not long ago a friend asked if his wife, now in an advanced stage, still recognized him and quietly he answered, “No … but I still know who she is.”

I AM THANKFUL that Peyton Manning is having such a superb season with the Denver Broncos after sitting out all last year with a neck injury. The fact that Denver leads the American Conference West with a 7-3 record makes what Elvis Presley said one time become so true: “When things go bad – don’t go with them.”

I AM THANKFUL that Oreo, the pet goat that was recently ostracized from the city of East Ridge, will be the Grand Marshal in the MainX24 Street Parade on Dec. 1. In the book “Winnie the Pooh,” A.A. Milne famously wrote, “It is hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal.”

I AM THANKFUL that Connie and Mark Schmissrauter got married this fall, that Ellen Brooks and Trey Moss’ baby Raymond is already fat and full of giggles, and that when Dr. Winston Caine died several weeks ago his family found a roll of nickels in his briefcase “in case he got in a fist fight.”

I AM THANKFUL every time I hear Bill Dudley of Signal Mountain Presbyterian preside over a funeral, that Joe Novenson of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian has a picture of every couple he ever married on display in his home, and that “Pastor Frank” is lighting up many a soul at Calvary Chapel.

I AM THANKFUL for the thousands of owners and riders of Tennessee Walking Horses who have stoutly stood up to the 3 percent of those who would dare to harm and torture a horse in quest of a cheap ribbon. Today the “Big Lick,” an unnatural gait that is fostered by abuse, soring and deceit, involves the most scurrilous collection of horsemen in the world and, centered in Shelbyville at the so-called National Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, these misguided people may well be the most loathsome of all the citizens in the United States.

I AM THANKFUL for Col.  James L. Stone, an Army platoon leader who stayed on a forsaken hill in Korea to fight the Chinese despite being shot in three different places. He ordered a retreat, since his 40 men were being overrun by 800 of the enemy, but still he stayed, covering the hill near the Imjin River until his men found safety. Stone was captured and served 20 months in a prison camp on the Yalu River until he was repatriated. He was promptly awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Arkansas native lived a full life until he died last week at age 89.

I AM THANKFUL that – in just the last two weeks alone – a high school kid in Davidson, N.C., passed for 837 yards in a single game, that another in Florida became the all-time career rusher in high school with a stunning 11,612 total yards and 148 TDs (his team is still in the playoffs), and that a college basketball player at tiny Grinnell College just scored 138 points in one game by himself. Each player broke long-standing records, which is why we must remember: “Never say never.”

I AM THANKFUL that Toyota and Lexus completely dominated the recent issue of Consumer Reports, which confirmed the Japanese giant makes the best cars and trucks in the world in almost every category and that the ridiculous “witch hunt” by union-led politicians over sudden acceleration two years back was total bunk.

I AM THANKFUL every time I read the classic book by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” and find my faith is restored by the beautiful words of Atticus Finch: "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

I AM THANKFUL that when all is said and done, and the bimbos finally fall from the spotlight, General David Petraeus will be remembered as one of our greatest military leaders and a true patriot. Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.”

I AM THANKFUL that I was in front of the TV that Sunday when UT-Chattanooga’s Steven Fox won the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship and that I got to watch exactly how it happened. Not only was it the most thrilling display of ice-water veins I have ever witnessed, I cannot recall a greater athletic achievement in Chattanooga’s colorful sports history.

I AM THANKFUL every time I see a 10-year-old boy zip past at high speed on his bicycle, especially if my newest dare-devil has both hands resting on his hips instead of the handle bars. In the book, The Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin writes, “Bran thought about it.’Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?'  'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”

I AM THANKFUL for words like “benign,” “Everything is OK now,” “The bad part is over,” and “The storm has passed.” Add others like “Paid In Full,” “diploma,” “touchdown,” “saved by the grace of God,” and “winner.” Then there are “all A’s,” “free refills,” “refund” and – of course – “You want fries with that?”

I AM THANKUL that, more and more, I am beginning to grasp what Margery Williams meant when she wrote famously in her book, “The Velveteen Rabbit” these words: "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

I AM THANKFUL for Terry Peruso, Bob McKamey, the late Bob McCoy, Vernon Pauls, Charlotte Lindeman, Spec. Andrew Smith and his wife Tori, football coach Bill Price, the esteemed Cauley Hayes, and each and every political candidate who may have lost in the election but whose sole goal was to make our world a better place.

I AM THANKFUL for chicken salad, pimento cheese, cheese grits, creamed hominy, pecan pie and other regional dishes that promote a kindness and compassion known only in the South.

AND, FINALLY, I AM THANKFUL for Thornton Wilder who sagely said, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” Maybe that is what inspired Meister Eckhart to remind us, “If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was ‘Thank you,’ it would suffice.”

Have a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving and may the hearts of you and your loved ones be warmed by simple gratitude.

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