Reasons to be thankful: Familial sacrifice, hope and Joe Biden

Here is my updated list of reasons to be grateful in 2020, a year the USA was in desperate need of a breather.

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The Thanksgiving window at the now-shuttered Country Shop in Winnetka. 

The Thanksgiving window at the now-shuttered Country Shop in Winnetka.

Sun-Times file


As a nation, we’d just about had it. 

Split along political lines; enduring a pandemic of epic proportions; the USA was in desperate need of a breather, a timeout.

Then we caught a break.

Joe Biden got elected president; a miraculous COVID-19 vaccine was being readied for distribution; and attorney Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye meltdown on national TV silenced his illegal TRUMPeting.

So while we crankily whisper the names of family not joining us around our Thanksgiving table this week to protect us from the new coronavirus surge, let’s give thanks for that other kind of familial love. Sacrifice. 

And once more, Sneed’s decades-old gratitude list — forged in a year like no other in my lifetime — gives thanks for...

A new beginning and a new president.

Separating fools from folly and being able to VOTE for the difference.

Time to reconnect long distance with old friends who remember us when we were 13; especially now that we are 77.

Remembering the beauty of lost lives.

Reflecting on a 52-year career; and the choices not made; on life ... and the choices made. 

The blessing of an only grandchild, Magnus of Minneapolis, who is nearing 2, and whom I’ve only seen twice this year.

The bravery of my daughter-in-law, Becca, a terrific mom and infectious disease doctor whose life saving in this pandemic leaves me in awe. 

My beloved son, Patrick, a devoted dad and hero to his family.

The magic of sisters Pat, Jac and Jo, who will spend Thanksgiving with their children nearby, but not at their table.

Good feet.

Good ears.

Good eyes.

Good knees … for prayer, please.

No fever; no cough; no chills.


A father’s legacy; my garden … and the safety it provided during this coronavirus summer.

A brave heart.

Hope ... especially now.

A smile on a policeman’s face . . . even in a mask.

A perfect sentence.  A great first paragraph.

Forgiveness . . . always.

Sunrise anywhere.

Curiosity. Magical thinking. Daydreaming. Adjectives. Atonement. 

Quiet. Silence. 


The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

Grasshoppers; crickets at night; bees; all birds ... even bats.

Poetry. All of it.


The memory of my good dogs Daisy, Marley, “Q” and Zeb, who died on days that should have never ended. 

The years with Minou, the absolute best cat ever, who left her perch on my pillow when the leaves began to fall five years ago. 

My pandemic pooch pals Pip and Two.

Mom’s mincemeat pie.


Time off. Times out.

Newspapers, always.

Truth. Candor. Tempered by an understanding heart.


The memory of the old Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge across the Missouri River in Mandan, North Dakota, which transported my railroad men forbears.

The final kitchen scene in the film “Moonstruck,” which always makes me howl.

A prairie childhood.

My mother and her name, June.

The spectacular photo of a Thanksgiving window at the now shuttered Country Shop in Winnetka, which now highlights my column.

Good neighbors.

Sunflowers pointing up.

Whistling in the dark; laughing until it hurts.

For this, I give thanks . . . always.

Finally, these words from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who faced despair in a powerful prayer ... hoping God would never leave him to face the unfaceable as so many Americans have this year: 

“My Lord God. I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. ... I cannot know for certain where it will end. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.”

Heads up, America. 

We’ve just been given a road ahead to travel together — and each of us must find the way.

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