Sharon Randall: A time for being thankful

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

Lately I’ve been thinking about gifts. Not just the gifts we wrap in paper and give to people who don’t need them. But all the gifts we are given that make life such a pleasure and enable us to give back in some way to the world.

Yesterday, my older son sent me a video of 19-months-old Leilani, learning to fly.

They were playing at a park when Leilani ran over to the swings. But instead of asking for help to climb onto the swing’s seat, she leaned over it to lie on her belly. Then she lifted her feet, spread her arms like wings and sailed back and forth.

“Are you flying?” said her dad.

She beamed up at him with pride and yelled, “Yeah!”

Then I heard my boy’s familiar laugh, a waterfall of delight.

That video was two priceless gifts in one: The sight of a little girl taking wing, and the sound of her daddy’s laughter.

I thought of what my mother would say when she had barely enough money to buy groceries: “The best gifts in life can’t be bought. God gives them free and clear to a grateful heart.”

Today I awoke to another gift: Rain. Enough rain to soak the Earth without washing us away.

I once took rain for granted. Never again. After recent years of little rainfall, we keep a bag packed, ready to go, in case we need to run from a wildfire.

If you live in a drought-prone place like California, you learn to appreciate rain. If you want to complain about it, you keep the complaints to yourself.

We often fail to appreciate people and things that mean so much to us, until one day, we realize we don’t have them any more. But there’s a simple way to show appreciation before it’s too late: Just say “thank you.”

Gratitude changes everything, both around us and within us. It opens our hearts and minds and souls to freely give and receive.

More than an awareness, it takes determination to show true gratitude — to feel it, say it and mean it with all our being.

What does it mean to you when someone thanks you for something you’ve done? It helps, doesn’t it? It may even make you want to do it again.

One summer, years ago, I flew back to the South to visit my stepfather, John. We’d had a rough spell in our family, losing in a painfully short span of time my mother, my husband and my brother Joe’s wife, all to cancer.

John now lived alone in the house we all once shared. One evening he and I sat on the porch sipping iced tea as we had often done on hot summer nights. Thunder rumbled on the mountains. Lightning bugs glittered in the yard. A scent of honeysuckle filled the air.

We traded questions, catching up on the family. Finally, I said, “So, how are you doing in this big house without mama?”

John took a minute, rocking slowly, staring at nothing. Then he cleared his throat to speak.

“It’s hard,” he said. “We didn’t always get along. But I still miss her. I reckon I always will.”

I nodded and he smiled.

“But you know,” he said, “this is a good time in our family. Everybody’s got work. Nobody’s got cancer. We’re all doing the best we can. We need to be thankful and remember it.”

A year later, John was gone. But his words to me that night were a gift I’ll always treasure.

We make the world a better place by being better people — kinder, gentler, slow to judge, quick to offer grace — and by practicing gratitude.

All families have hard times. We prop each other up, pray for strength and do the best we can.

But we also have countless good times to remind us we’re a family and give us stories to tell our children who’ll pass them on for generations to come.

This is a good time for me and my family. I hope it’s a good time for you and yours. Thank you for reading my words. It’s a gift I’ll never take for granted.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924