In the midst of catastrophe, here are some reasons to give thanks

Michael Sneed’s annual list, begun more than 30-years ago, comes as we are a nation in the grips of a pandemic and split politically.

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One thing I’m thankful for: This display at the now-shuttered Country Shop in Winnetka.

Sun-Times file photo


Once again, it’s time for Sneed’s annual Thanksgiving gratitude list — begun … more than 30 years ago!

The list once lauded good deeds by good dudes, but eventually turned in a different direction: giving thanks for the many things we take for granted.

The world may be in the midst of a catastrophic rough go, our country splitting along political lines despite the election of a new president, our city reeling from the epidemic of gun violence and the COVID contagion.

And who would have figured the word “subpoena” has now become so common, spellcheck is no longer necessary.

So let us give thanks for family returning to the Thanksgiving table this week, for the wisdom to deal with the unexpected and gratitude for the things we take for granted. 

Such as …

• Family. 

• Forgiveness. Empathy. 

• Mental health.

• Magical thinking. 

• Listening.

• Reciting an entire poem out loud. 

• Making a new friend.

• Trusting someone enough to share a secret.

• Confidence.

• A sweet dream.

• Sunrise anywhere.

• Birdsong, especially the meadowlark. 

• Living in the present; finding joy in the past … and letting go of what wasn’t.

• Good knees (please).

• Daydreaming.

• Live music and live theater … among vaccinated crowds.

• The socialization of school … safely.

• Takeout; transportation; technology … used wisely. 

• The freedom of a car; stops along the road.

• Separating fools from folly.

• Trees … and a giant cottonwood tree growing among the detritus near the intersection of Willow Road and the Edens Expressway.

• A brave heart; a kind heart.

• Fireflies; grasshoppers; the chirrup of crickets at night; bees; owls; frogs.

• A cherished children’s book: “Tubby the Tuba” ... and what could be a lesson to our fractured citizenry when Tubby sings, “If I went away from me, how unhappy I would be.” 

• “The Song of Wandering Aengus” by poet William Butler Yeats; the poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Mary Oliver.

• Trust.

• The comfort of animals. My pandemic pup pals Pip and Two-Two.

• Curiosity.

• A vodka martini. 

• The memory of mom’s mincemeat pie. 

• Dusk.

• Time off. Timeout.

• Newspapers, always.

• Truth. Candor. Tempered by understanding.

• Adoption.

• Breath.

• A smile on a policeman’s face ... especially in a mask.

• A perfect sentence. A great first paragraph.

• Adjectives. Atonement.

• Quiet. Silence.

• Listening.

• Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

• A father’s legacy; my garden. The lovely month my mother was born and her namesake: June.

• Laughter. The hysterical kitchen scene in the film “Moonstruck.”  

• Close friends. And just friends. And childhood friends, who knew what you were like at 13, keeping you humbled. 

• The Missouri River.

• A prairie childhood in a town with a name listed nowhere else in the world: Mandan, North Dakota.

• The acidity of a fresh garden tomato; tree peonies. 

• The wonderful photo of a long-gone Thanksgiving window taken late one night, which now highlights my column.

• The elusive Maple Nut ice cream at Hartigan’s ice cream parlor in Evanston.

• Great neighbors.

• Sunflowers pointing up.

• Whistling in the dark; laughing until it hurts.

• Books you remember forever.

• Calling Chicago my home and my heart since 1965.

For all of this this, I give thanks ... always.

Before the Sneed list ends, quotes from the past for reflection: 

One is a poem from the English poet Chidiock Tichborne, who penned “Elegy” in 1586:

“My tale was heard, and yet it was not told,

My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,

My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,

I saw the world, and yet I was not seen:

My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.”

But, finally, apt words in a time of worldwide turmoil 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 the past two years:

“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.”

Sneedlings …

Congrats to former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan and his new bride, MaryLou. Blessings. … Thanksgiving birthdays: Former first daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush, 40; actor Ben Stein, 77; Christina Applegate, 50; actor John Larroquette, 74, and singer Amy Grant, 61.

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