How easy it is to take people, things, opportunities, and health for granted. We all do at one time or another. I know I have many times. The loss of physical strength and ability is shocking, and huge, after being strong and able. It’s after the loss that I begin to see how much I had and how great the loss. When I’m reminded, it’s often painful; like losing someone close to you.

I’ve heard many adages. “We’re not getting off the planet alive.” “We have a built-in expiration date.” “Dying is part of life.” I read the obits and I feel bad for the losses and the grief for those left behind. It seems one can’t turn on the news without hearing about another family’s loss.

But then it hits right at my door and I look the adage in the face. Grieving my loss begins and I have no idea where it ends. I search the crowd for the familiar face, listen for the ever-silenced voice, and wait for the phone call that’ll not come again. And I’m reminded, again, how much I take for granted every day. It’s amazing how fast sympathy turns into empathy when the pain of others becomes familiar.

My life is rich with such a wonderful variety of dear friends who are more like family. I have a hubby who’s not just my spouse; he’s my best friend. I’m also so fortunate to have family who are wonderful friends. Our lives are woven together in a beautiful harmonious pattern and I learn from each one. Our friendships are beautifully symbiotic and when one goes away it’s as if I’ve had a physical part of me removed.

Gratitude for each one of the people who make my life whole everyday is immediate for me today because I lost one of them. My peace is in knowing I had expressed often how much I loved them and how thankful I was for them. Never assume those around you know how you feel, and never be embarrassed to say “I love you” or “I’m grateful for you in my world.” Say it every time to see or talk to them, because you never know.

I’m grateful for our 4-legged furbees that keep our house active and alive, and love me no matter what. Even the barnyard critters bring a smile. I understand the sadness when a home is too quiet after one of these babies passes.

In the frustration of watching current events, I still find deep gratitude for the place I live and the freedoms I have. Perfection and humanity do not equate and there’s so much I’ll never understand. My impact on those monumental issues isn’t much. What I know is, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do whatever I can to make one life better, today, and maybe another one tomorrow. I’m thrilled to have the chance to give hope, guide the first step, and encourage “I can” in everyone I encounter.

Things all around us seem chaotic, confused, angry; challenging us to take sides and become enemies. I don’t think that’s what most of us want, yet we hesitate to take a stand of love and tolerance. What happened to “treating others the way we want to be treated?” All others. No matter how far we’ve allowed the current climate to carry us, it’s not too late to defuse. A deep breath, a stepping back, a reset of values, an understanding of why freedoms represent each of our thoughts, in our beautiful country. Believing in freedom, and standing for freedom, is for every person we come in contact with.

This isn’t just a holiday for eating too much, watching football games, and falling asleep in the big chair. As we gather tomorrow, or over this weekend, to celebrate gratefulness, in the middle of the fun, let’s try to show how much those folks matter to us — considerate acts, heartfelt words spoken face-to-face, hugs that last a little longer, and gratefulness expressed with our words. When we pass someone in the store, we can make eye contact and smile. Driving down the road doesn’t have to be a who’s-in-first-place contest. Give way. There’s always someone else who’s in front. Be patient. Enjoy the ride. I promise it feels pretty nice to give way and be peaceful about it.

We want you to know how much we appreciate you, and hope your Thanksgiving is filled with true gratitude!

Sherrie Ottinger, aka: “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at with comments or questions.

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