Anger? Frustration? Most likely, we’ve all experienced such feelings this year. But Thanksgiving Day is not the time to talk about such things. All of us still have plenty to be thankful for.

I hope you will feel free to share some of your own special notes of gratitude, but just to get the conversation started here are a few thank you notes of my own.

I’m thankful for:

1) Indoor plumbing. Yes, we take it for granted, but lots of earlier generations of Southerners did not have that luxury, and neither do many impoverished people around the world today. I’m also thankful for reliable plumbers. The South’s skilled plumbers do so much more good for our society than the majority of our region’s elected officials.

2) Brussels sprouts, which I only began eating in the past year. Yes, even in old age, you can have new adventures. Thanks to Jamie, the chef at Blackwater on St. Simons Island, for introducing them to me. And thanks to my wife for cooking some great ones at home the very next week. Who knew she had such skills that she had hidden from me all these years?

3) Libraries and librarians. I spent my early years in a home with few books and in a town that didn’t even have a book store. Libraries, and encouraging librarians, opened up whole new worlds for me. While I’m on this topic, let me add all Southerners who support the arts — from traditional music to painting to literature and poetry to dance and to all those little theater groups that survive, and sometimes flourish, thanks to dedicated volunteers.

4) Irish bacon and cabbage, which I enjoyed again on my visit to Dublin in August. In all my visits there, I still haven’t seen corned beef and cabbage on a menu, but bacon and cabbage is a tasty pub dish on a cool and drizzly day. I’m sad, though, about Ireland’s economic woes at the moment. Bacon and cabbage is great, but the government’s reliance on supply side economics and its faith in the value of having Europe’s lowest corporate tax have not been rewarded. Sadly, the people are the ones who will pay the price. As the Irish singer Maura O’Connell said recently during a concert at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, things might seem bad here but they are worse there.

5) The people who pick up my recycling every week, especially the friendly one who always waves at me. Recycling is still in its infancy, but it’s one small step that I’m glad more Southern communities are taking. Some day maybe the recyclers at St. Simons will even take glass.

6) Escargots. Some friends and I once thought we should start an escargot farm to sell these little critters to restaurants. We should have done it. How hard could raising escargots be? If they run away, catching them shouldn’t take too long. How long would it take to run down a snail? And you could have a few escargot dogs or cats (akin to sheep dogs) around to herd them wherever they needed to go. Just a tiny suggestion for some future entrepreneur who might help us regain some of the vast number of jobs we have lost in the last few years.

7) Attentive customer service workers. I wish there were many more like the few good ones of you. Sadly, the majority of people that I encounter who are supposed to serve their companies’ customers act at best like robots and at worst convey utter contempt for the people who help to pay their salaries. The customer is always wrong, in too many cases these days. Because so many companies care so little, we need a much stronger consumer protection movement.

8) Cats. Yes, yes, I know some dog lovers will be up in arms — we are so polarized in America these days, after all — but I love the two cats who live with me now, the several who have lived with me over the years but are sadly no longer walking, sleeping and purring among us, and all the ones who greet me when I walk around my neighborhood. I also appreciate some of the cats I’ve encountered in far-flung places over the years, including the big-eared kitties of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and the hungry black cat, the one we named Nera, who hung out with us for a week in Tuscany a couple of years ago. Nera loved spaghetti and pizza and pasta carbonara, and who could blame her? Next to Southern cooking, Italian cuisine is the best in the world.

9) Responsible and informed people who vote the right way, which in most cases means voting left. And voting left in the South usually means voting center right because most of our candidates are so far to the extreme right that they would regard Attila the Hun as a socialist. Speaking of voting, I’m also thankful for Elizabeth Warren, the one member of the Obama administration who consistently sticks up for us little people. And I’m thankful every day for my favorite Southern politician, Rep. John Lewis. Let me just share a couple of paragraphs from a letter I received from him this week:

“Social Security and Medicare represent a sacred trust between the American government and the American people.  It is a trust between parents and children, between those working and those in retirement or who are disabled.  It is the greatest example of the Beloved Community.  Social Security is one of the most successful and effective government programs ever implemented.  For 75 years it has kept millions of seniors and disabled Americans out of poverty and provided a safety net for millions of workers and their families.

“Social Security and Medicare are guaranteed benefits earned over a lifetime of hard work.  Social Security should never be subject to the whims of Wall Street, which cost millions of Americans their retirement savings during the Bush financial meltdown.  Social Security is more important than ever.

10) Clorox disinfecting wipes. How did we ever get along without them?

On a final note, I’m also thankful for all Southerners who recognize that a large part of our mission is not to forget our troubled past as a region but to demonstrate to the world going forward that diverse people — racially, religiously and in every other way — can learn to live together and treat each other with respect.

And, of course, I’m thankful for all Like the Dew readers, including the ones who don’t agree with me.

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Keith Graham

Keith Graham

Keith Graham was among the recipients of the prestigious Stella Artois prize at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. Named for a blind piano player, he is also well known for always giving money to street accordion players. A quotation that he considers meaningful comes from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle: "The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height." In addition to contributing to Like the Dew, Keith frequently posts quotations and links and occasionally longer articles at http://tartantambourine.com/