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This Week
Arts and Entertainment Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 9 years ago

What I'm thankful for ... a Thanksgiving expression of gratitude

by: Joe Hendricks


Thanks – “to express gratitude, appreciation or acknowledgment.”

Giving – “to present voluntarily and without expectation of compensation.”

Put these two words together and you get a holiday that affords the perfect opportunity to reflect on the good things, large and small, that make life worth living --- something I try to do every day of the year. I’m not a religious man, and I’m not exactly sure what God it is that I pray to when I do pray, but I usually start my day something like this …


I wake up around 10 a.m. with Mellie Dog lying on the bed next to me. I snuggle up to Mellie, start rubbing and kissing behind her ears and I begin my morning prayer of gratitude: "Thank you, God, for this little doggie right here. Please keep her healthy and alive for as long as possible because we love her so much and she helps make our little family whole. Thank you for my lovely wife Amy and for bringing her into my life. Please keep us safe and healthy and out of harm’s way, and please help me be the good husband that she deserves."

With the two most important things in my life acknowledged, I move on to some of the everyday basics we often take for granted: "Thank you for the bed we sleep in, the roof over our head, the clothes on our back, the food in our bellies, two cars that run and jobs that pay our bills and bring purpose to our lives."  

The second stanza of my prayer is the direct result of the day I spent “homeless” a few years ago while doing research for an upcoming WSLR radio special about homelessness. Unable to find a place to sleep that night, I came home about four in the morning, went to bed and woke up later that day feeling extremely grateful that I was not homeless. Before getting out of bed, I lay there for a few minutes feeling appreciation for the simple (and not-so-simple) things in life, and that is the origin of my morning prayer.

 The third part of my prayer brings me back to family and friends: "Thank you for Mom and Ruthie (Mom’s best friend) still being part of our lives and thank you for Ted (Stevens), Butch (Alan), Marian and Devin (Rutkowski) and all the other friends and family members that make our lives special."

I then circle around again to the employers and organizations that bring personal fulfillment to our lives: "Thank you for the band, The Anna Maria Island Sun, This Week in Sarasota, WSLR, The Ellen Meade School (Amy’s new employer) and Discovery Days (Amy’s previous employer, which brought us to Sarasota)."

I conclude my morning prayer with this closing statement: “Thank you God for all these blessings and the blessed life that I live. I am a lucky man.” I then get out of bed and go about my day as a “faithful and flawed sinner” (paraphrasing the great Dave Matthews).

That’s about the extent of my religious activities. I don’t go to church and I’m not part of any organized religion. If the question comes up and someone asks me what I believe in, I might say, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “I believe in myself.”

I respect and admire folks who have absolute faith (as long as they don’t force their beliefs on others), but I’ve never found it myself. That said, I like to think that a life comprised of true love, hard work, good deeds, random acts of kindness, an appreciation for nature and sympathy for the less fortunate gives me at least a “puncher’s chance” of getting past those pearly gates --- if such a thing even exists.

Whether I spend my eternal years in heaven, hell, or stuck in an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet (my personal vision of hell), the one thing I know is that when I’m lying on my death bed I will take solace in the fact that I lived my life on my terms and I left very little on the table to look back upon with regret. I will die in peace knowing that I lived a good first life, just in case there’s no spiritual afterlife or ghostly coda to follow.   

The Work Prayer


I do have another prayer that I often recite when driving to "work" with Ted Stevens and the Doo-Shots. The utterance of this personal soliloquy usually occurs when driving across a bridge or passing by a body of water, when I'm struck by the pure beauty of this spectacular part of coastal Florida that we live in.

My little pre-work prayer goes something like this: “Thank you, God, for letting this be my drive to work. Thank you for allowing me to make a living playing music with and for people who are my  friends, and thank you for letting these music venues be my workplace … Amen."

The Other Stuff

Beyond all the big picture stuff, there are many other things I’m thankful for and here’s a partial list that comes to mind: 

The United States of America --- despite its political, economic and societal challenges there’s no place else I’d rather live, or explore as a tourist.

Cool weather and low humidity; well-written books and well-made movies; NFL football, NBA basketball, NASCAR and PGA golf; live music, rock and roll concerts, recorded music and the Aerosmith/Cheap Trick ticket sitting on my desk; Frostwire; Rolling Stone magazine; the Internet, email and cell phones; the Olympus digital voice recorder Marian and Devin bought me for my 50th birthday; video games; pizza, steak and tacos; cold beer and colder Jagermeister; open highways; natural beauty; the beach (any beach); the Gulf of Mexico; vibrant cities and happening social scenes … I could go on, but you get the picture.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everybody, and thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy life to read my stories, listen to my Local Matters radio show and for coming out to see the band. Thanks to all my friends and family for all you do and thanks to this wonderful city of Sarasota that I am fortunate to call my home.

And thank you, Sara Moone and Matt Orr, for providing this media platform known as This Week In Sarasota, and for giving folks like me an opportunity share our views, news, and in this case, our gratitude.  

Joe Hendricks ~ 11/19/2012 

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