Every year about this time, I suggest to my friends they get a head start on Thanksgiving. Our world is moving so fast, and this year has been further complicated by more distractions than you can shake a stick at. If we don’t take time and focus on that which is most important, Thanksgiving Day will come and go, and we will still be in a daze.
So let me suggest you write down a few numbers.
Speaking of numbers, I saw an old classmate of mine a few weeks back. I shared a numbers story with him, which took us both back to Mrs. Winningham’s first-grade class in 1957. He had a nice, long, easy chuckle as he stood beside his mother’s grave.
Every school day, Mrs. Winningham, as a part of math class, required each student to record their numbers from 1 through 100. The exercise involved writing a column of numbers down the left-hand side of the page from 1 to 10, then drawing a vertical line and recording 11 to 20, then 21 to 30 and so on until 100 was reached. I found it to be a most useless and boring task. So, I came up with a plan.
I decided to take one of William Denney’s sheets of numbers from a previous day’s class, change the name and hand it in as mine, eliminating unnecessary labor. But to do so, I was faced with two challenges. The first challenge was the zeros. William Denney made zeros, which were perfect circles. My zeros were oval in shape like goose eggs. So, I had to change all the zeros to avoid being caught. There were 10 of them. Secondly, I had to carefully erase William Denney’s name. Please understand. I was dealing with inch-high letters on soft, wide-lined paper. “William Denney” is a long name. Erasing wide, lead-pencil lines is a delicate art. To avoid damaging the paper and removing all eraser dust required great skill. Each time I finished the job, I was pleased with myself.
My plan was executed with precision for weeks until the day Mrs. Winningham looked up from the work on her desk and declared in a voice that would put the fear of God in any 6-year old child. “Jack McCall, make me a new set of numbers.” I had been found out.
In case I have a few readers who are disinclined to write down numbers – let me assure you, I understand – I apologize in advance.
So here’s the deal. Take a sheet of paper. A legal pad works really well. On the left-hand side of the paper create a column of numbers, 1-25. You will only have to deal with two zeros. Then, list the 25 things for which you are most thankful. Don’t worry about the order of their most importance. Just let your mind flow freely. Relax and write down whatever comes to mind.
On the next day, try it again. A top 10 will begin to emerge as you review the previous day’s list. I once did this exercise for 30 consecutive days. You might want to try it. Here’s what you will learn. The things for which you are most grateful will naturally make their way to the top. But as you complete your list each day, new things will come to your attention. You will become more aware. You will began to look for new things to add to your list. You will become more grateful for what you have.
To get you started, here are a few of my favorites.
No. 1 for me is peace with God.
A few that always make my top 10 are personal freedom as a citizen of the United States of America, family, good health and friends. I’ve had some of the best.
I am thankful for the Bible. It has provided for me an anchor in a world of shifting sand.
I am thankful for so many fine people I have known who helped shape my life by their words and their example.
I am grateful for having grown up on a farm where I experienced the miracle of the seed and the sun and the soil and where I came to appreciate the rhythm and mystery of the changing seasons.
On a lighter note, I am thankful for pinto beans, turnip greens, country ham and red-eyed gravy. Add to that sorghum molasses, homemade biscuits and crabapple jelly.
I am thankful for Christmas music, especially the angelic voice of the late Karen Carpenter.
I am thankful for the newspapers that run this column and for you, my readers, who, from time to time, say the nicest things by phone and by email.
Don’t let Thanksgiving Day take you by surprise. Work on your list.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a certified speaking professional.