This big blue marble we call Earth has made yet another trip around the sun with yours truly as a passenger. For that I am very thankful, and because of that I have a long, long list of blessings to count — including having the opportunity to do so in this very public forum.
I am thankful for quiet mornings alone when I can capture my thoughts and put them down on paper—or in the iCloud, or wherever it is that technology saves my thoughts. I am thankful that I can still walk up our long driveway to retrieve the morning papers — and that is a two-fold blessing. I am thankful that I can still walk, at least for the time being, and that there are still newspapers in print, at least for the time being.
I am thankful for the hush that falls over Sanford Stadium just as the solo bugler hits the first note of “Glory, Glory,” and I am thankful that Penn Wagers gets sarcasm, because he misses almost everything else. I am thankful for the six degrees my children and I have earned from the University of Georgia so far and will be very thankful for the one my youngest child, Jenna, will earn in May.
I’m thankful for peach ice cream and sultry summer days and air conditioning.
I am thankful for Mike Young and Steve Middlebrooks and Gary Hill and so many other folks who have befriended me and done things for me that I will never be able to repay. I am thankful that after all these years I finally owned a Cadillac — at least for a little while. And I am thankful for the wonderful folks who made it possible for my son Jackson and me to spend a glorious Sunday afternoon at the Masters in April. I’ll not mention their names for fear that they would be besieged with requests, but they know who they are — and now they, hopefully, know how much I appreciate them and their gracious gesture.
I am thankful that when I flip a switch on the wall the lights come on. I am thankful that when I punch the arrow on the thermostat the heat comes on. I am thankful that going to the bathroom doesn’t involve putting on shoes or leaving the house. I am thankful that I am the one who snores and not my lovely wife, Lisa. Might as well be honest.
I am thankful for the printing press and for Pat Conroy and Nelson DeMille and for Earnest Hemingway. I am extremely thankful that my father made sure that I learned to love and appreciate the written word. As long as there are books in my house I never have to be lonely.
I am thankful for the fact that I was able to be involved in education for nearly 40 years of my life. I am thankful that I don’t have to get up and go to the schoolhouse now. And I am thankful for the students who drop in and who send me notes and texts and Facebook messages, telling me that what I did made a difference in their lives.
I am thankful for the folks who have trusted me to guide them across this great nation during the first six months as a tour host — and I look forward to all the places we will get to go in the coming years. I am thankful that my sister and I got to travel together this year for the first time in four decades.
I am thankful for memories — even sad ones — because memories mean that significant events have occurred in my life. I am thankful for every card and letter and phone call of encouragement I have received over the past two years, and I am thankful for each and every prayer that has been sent heavenward on my behalf. I am especially thankful for the professionals at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, who gave me hope when practically no one else did, and followed through.
I am thankful for my Big Green Egg.
I am thankful when my phone rings and it is someone from a church or some other group inviting me to come and share my story and my heart — and I am thankful for those empty days on the calendar, too.
I am thankful for having been born and raised in the American South and that I have the good sense to appreciate my upbringing and the deep connection I have made in my lifetime with grits and catfish and fried chicken and corn bread and sweet iced tea. And the Lord knows that I am thankful for barbecue — and for children, of all ages, who have been taught to say “ma’am” and “sir” and “please” and “thank you.” I am thankful that my parents raised me in the church and didn’t let me make my own decision each Sunday about whether I would attend or stay home.
Last, but not least, I am thankful for Dan Magill and for the fact that he is still holding on. The world is a much better place with him in it.