The older I get, the more I realize the importance of the little things that are right in front of me to appreciate all year long. So, once again, as we celebrate this uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving, here is my list of blessings for which I am thankful in 2011.
First and foremost, I am thankful to God, who gives me what the Bible calls "a peace that passes all understanding." This was at the core of the first Thanksgiving celebration in Colonial America, as red men shared their bounty with white men, and early Americans gave thanks to Almighty God for the gift of life.
I am thankful for my loving bride, a beautiful, talented, godly woman who has born my troubles and my children, who has been my life partner and my prayer warrior, my trusted counselor and my best friend for 42 years and counting. As always, she will insist on rising early on Thanksgiving morning to prepare the traditional home-cooked dinner for the family she loves.
I am thankful for my sons. Both of them grew up far too fast, and as they went out to make their own way in the world, they left behind a trail of memories for their mother and me. They will be here at our table on Thursday, along with the grandchildren they have given us, and we will rejoice in their company and marvel at the gift they are to us.
I am thankful for the warmth of a wonderful old home filled with character and history, built by my wife's grandfather in the winter of 1915. The land on which it sits is covered with large oak trees and has been in her family since before the Civil War. The story goes that the frozen Nebraska topsoil had to be blasted open with dynamite, and the basement dug out using a team of mules. Since then, the home has never been out of the family, and for the last 32 years we have called it our home.
In a corner of the living room sits a handmade antique rocking chair with a long history of its own. It was a wedding gift from my great-grandfather to his new bride in 1900, and it has rocked five generations of Patton babies. In a spare room upstairs sits another old rocker with a similar history from my wife's side of the family.
I am thankful for the people in my life who know me well and still love me. As I once told one of my sons during a lecture about peer pressure, the people who love us will still be here long after the people we try so hard to impress have forgotten our names.
I am thankful for the Founders of the United States of America, who risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor that I might be born in a free country. When I consider the odds of having been placed here in this nation at this moment in time, I cannot do the math. With so many billions of people in this world who live in political, economic and/or spiritual bondage, I am in awe of the blessing God has granted me.
I am thankful for the Declaration of Independence, which acknowledges that my rights come from God, not from man. I am thankful for the Constitution — especially the First Amendment, which guarantees us the right to worship God freely and me the right to express my opinion in this column every week.
I am thankful that I still live in a Constitutional Republic, where the ballot box has consequences and the people are able to make corrections to the course on which our leaders have put our nation, and that in this land I love, power is transferred peacefully, following free and open elections.
We have plenty of problems. Politics and scandal, primaries and frontrunners, budgets and corruption — all of these will be there to opine about next week. This week, may we all be thankful, and may God richly bless America and her people.