These are some things I wasn’t thankful for. Until much later.

~ Each Christmas I would receive a hand knitted sweater from Grandma. I remember being disappointed that the large box didn’t contain a toy. It continued into my teen years when all I wanted were “real” clothes. Now, I wear some of those sweaters and recall the thoughtful woman who spent hours creating each one.

~ It was always the same bold red words on most of my First Grade class assignments: "Karen, I know you can do better than this.” I’d hand each one to my parents and they’d read those words to me until I’d memorized them. In the years that followed those same words came to mind each time I did less than my best.

~ On my birthday Mom would give me a specially chosen book she had discovered on one of her many bookstore explorations. It created an amazing collection, but as I got older many books were left unread and unappreciated. Now, they hold a special place on my bookshelf, for I can no longer talk to the wonderful woman who was thinking of me as she selected each one.

~ I always recall the day when my college professor handed back my seventy-five page paper—an assignment I had developed beyond his expectations. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that it needed to be rewritten. While he admired my effort, he expected it to be dynamic, not just a completed assignment. Working nonstop, I submitted it again days later. I was soon dismayed as he handed it back again, explaining to me that good writing may be achieved in two drafts, but great writing never is. It’s a lesson I have always tried to remember.

~ After my father died unexpectedly, I was suddenly dealing with all his unfinished paperwork. As I sat at his desk, I noticed a pencil holder made from a tin juice can and papered rather poorly with six year old hands. My hands. As I reached for the clumsy can that I had given to him so many years ago, I realized that the gifts we give others really are an extension of ourselves. It’s much more than the gift, it’s the love that we wish to share, whether it’s a sweater or a book or a homemade pencil holder.

Sometimes the caring comes in the words we choose to encourage someone, like, “Karen, I know you can do better than this."

May I be thankful for all that life offers. At first it may not appear to be a gift, but I have discovered that if I wait just awhile…

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