Thanksgiving thoughts from our readers – Chicago Tribune

Editor’s note: This year, we asked our readers to tell us what they’re grateful for. Here is a selection of their responses.

My first recollection of Thanksgiving was my father going to our church and getting a free turkey with all the trimmings.

He was working numerous jobs sending money back to his mother and siblings in Mexico, in addition to raising three of us — eventually becoming six — in Chicago.

In school, we were taught that Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to survive their first winter and saved them from perishing in a strange land. I would struggle with the holiday, wondering why the Pilgrims then stole the Native Americans’ lands and killed hundreds of thousand of Indigenous people. How could we share thanks?

I can still see my father’s smile. He wasn’t smiling from being given a free turkey to celebrate a holiday he didn’t understand. It was for the opportunities he received in this new country, to have dignity and raise a family. Just like the first settlers in America.

The United States Is a young nation, and horrific mistakes have been made, but that’s why history books are written, to learn from them and move forward.

On this holiday, let’s be thankful for living in a country that is not perfect but gives us opportunities to succeed and keep smiling.

— Roberto Garcia, Chicago

As I enter my autumn years, I’ve witnessed my immediate family and many friends and relatives pass away. It gets me thinking more about my own mortality. The inevitability of death, which seemed abstract when I was younger, now has definable features.

I’m becoming increasingly aware of what a cosmological long shot my existence actually is. Looking out into the immense universe, I can’t help but wonder how I got so lucky as to exist at all. I’m not simply alive, but I can contemplate my situation and interact with others. I am matter that has evolved over boundless time into consciousness. One can only speculate as to what a galactic peculiarity it might be.

I’m not religious, though I respect and sometimes envy those who find comfort in religious beliefs. For me, the probability of an afterlife seems remote. Following my last breath, I presume I will revert to being unconscious matter, scattered back into the abyss, never returning to the unique biological configuration that once was me.

We seem to have won the cosmic lottery, though our window of existence is quite brief. I shall attempt to relish every precious moment I have left, as these moments appear to be glorious, mesmerizing and impossibly rare.

— Scott T. Thompson, Bloomington, Indiana

On the day before Thanksgiving in 2018, my husband and I were in town and had to stop at the grocery for a few things. It was crowded, but people were in a good mood. When I was done shopping, I called my husband to pick me up. When I lifted the bag of groceries and turned toward the door, the next thing I knew I had hit the concrete. My shoe must’ve caught on something. My head was spinning as I tried to sit up.

People came from all directions to help me! One woman gave me Kleenex because my forehead was bleeding.

You can imagine how my husband felt. He saw me go down. He turned on his flashers and ran to the door. My one knee doesn’t bend, and I had fallen on my good knee. My husband got behind me to do a fireman’s lift, and a young woman appeared in front of me and loudly said, “Take my hand!” The next thing I knew, I was on my feet. I will never forget all the kind, concerned and compassionate people who came to my aid. As Thanksgiving approaches every year, I always think of this and remember all I have to be thankful for.

I want you to “take my hand,” and together we can make this a better, more compassionate country. According to a federal report, due to the effects of the pandemic, more than 34 million people will experience food insecurity this year, including a potential 9 million children.

Every community in this great country is home to families that struggle with food insecurity.

My husband and I volunteer at a food pantry in a small town, and every week, we have new families coming in for aid. Many say they never thought they would have to come for help, but so many people have lost jobs.

So I’m asking you to “take my hand” and help out any way possible. Children, families and seniors going to bed hungry should never happen in this great country! Even the smallest amount of cash or donated groceries will be greatly appreciated at your neighborhood food pantry or soup kitchen.

If you have some spare time, food pantries, soup kitchens and many other organizations could use your help. Let’s take time to remember how blessed we are and how thankful we should be.

— Nancy Shevel, Marengo, Illinois

My fondest childhood memories of Thanksgiving always begin and end at Grandma’s house. It was standard practice for the entire family to congregate there every November.

I can still visualize her bringing the turkey to the table, much like the scene in that famous Norman Rockwell painting.

In her desire be the perfect host, she never stopped smiling, even though she mightily from chronic arthritis, and being on her feet all day was surely a struggle. She would plan the dinner for weeks, and nothing was ever absent from the feast, including candied sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole and her award-winning cranberry fluff.

After dining, the men would retreat to the family room to watch football while the women went to the kitchen to wash dishes and share vacation photos. It was the only time all day that Grandma could relax.

Later, when restlessness began to surface, especially among the youngsters, Grandma would organize parlor games that restored a feeling of contentment among us all.

Finally, it was time for dessert and reflection. One by one, each of us was required to think of something we were most grateful for, other than material objects.

Of course, family unity was a recurring theme. But above all else, there was an abiding love for our grandmother, who always kept traditional values ​​alive.

— Bob Ory, Elgin

Dear grieving family and friends of the organ donor who saved so many people this past July: Because of the generous donation, my husband and many others still continue to live. My husband was gifted two lungs July 26. We know nothing about this donor other than because of that person, my husband became healthy enough to walk our daughter down the aisle to marry the love of her life this past October. He continues to get stronger every day.

My daily prayers include my husband’s donor and the person’s family members, so that they may know that their loved one has made a difference in so many ways.

Since no words really can express the gratitude we all feel, I close this with a very sincere and heartfelt “thank you.”

— Sandy Schlaf, Marengo, Illinois

Every year at our Thanksgiving table, we take turns saying what we are thankful for: family, friends, food, everything. This year, however, I realize that what I am most grateful for is gratitude itself. Being thankful is truly a gift, for a grateful person is a grace-filled person — a happy person.

Happiness is being grateful for what we have and not always worrying about what we don’t have. What if the only thing we receive today is what we were grateful for yesterday?

Since a thankful person is a happy person, maybe that is why we say, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

— Karen McMahon, Chicago

I am grateful for our mail delivery worker who left biscuits in our mailbox for our sick dog. I am grateful for our library book club where we can have boisterous debates on opposing perspectives and everyone learns something and looks forward to the next meeting.

— Jelmir Atkins, Sycamore, Illinois

A couple of months ago, a doctor’s magical words reached me over the phone. The words weren’t, “You don’t have cancer,” or “You’re not going to die.” Rather, they were the words of an ophthalmologist who said, “Well, bring him in.”

The “him” was John, a healthy, independent 70-year old who moved into our building recently and quite suddenly became blind with cataracts.

With John’s permission, we began searching for a doctor who might help. Several ophthalmologists had already pointedly refused to see him due to insufficient insurance and funds. But this doctor did not hesitate, and at this writing, John can see as well as he could when he was 16 years old. He is a new man thanks to a doctor who put a patient ahead of payment.

I hope this doctor knows how thankful we all are and that he knows he is walking in the footprints of the Jesus who cured the blind.

— Kathleen Melia, Niles

it’s a real joy to think on what there is to be thankful for; more is found as it’s considered.

I’m a Catholic, and the root word for Eucharist means Thanksgiving. It’s a true blessing in my life to have this to parttake of, as well as to serve in my position as a sacristan. I feel grateful for the daily miracles in life such as the changing of the seasons and the beauty and wonder of creation.

I feel grateful for how the husband of a friend has achieved 40 years of sobriety, a true sign of a higher power. The wit and wisdom of my cat is a joy. When he falls over in perfect contentment in a sunny puddle, he’s showing how to live fully in a given moment.

I’m glad of my senses, that I may see a favorite movie and hear the voices and laughter of my family and friends. Of smelling a good cup of coffee, tasting a good meal and feeling the touch of a cozy blanket or sweater.

Just as a drop of water can contain a whole scientific world, one given moment can hold so much to take in and love.

I anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas, which can still retain its essence even amid the commercialism.

May all of us continue forward within our blessings and step strongly into 2023.

— Mandy May, Evanston

Thankfully, every Thanksgiving before and since has run smoother than the one I co-hosted: a small party with my steady of 30 years ago. She was a superb classical musician but no cook, so it was understood that the brunt of meal preparation would fall to me. Which didn’t seem like a problem, at least initially. I’d learned everything about preparing the turkey and trimmings from Mom. My belle would be off at a church concert but she promised to be back by 10 am to assist, well before our noontime party.

But 10 came and went, then 10:30, then 11, then 11:30. The kitchen was warm, and my mind was overheating. Could I turn everything off to await further developments and delay dinner? If I did, how would that ultimately affect the finished products?

This was outside my experience, so I decided to proceed as scheduled. But that presented its own difficulties. As most homemakers know, there’s a point when all your Bird Day cooking is climaxing at almost precisely the same moment. An extra hand is extremely useful, and here there was none.

Somehow I got through with everything just about when she rolled in, only scorching a Pyrex pot in the process.

— Tom Gregg, Niles

Join the conversation in our Letters to the Editor Facebook group.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email