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Choir practice for the Madrigal Community Choir in Downey, Idaho, ends at 8:30 p.m. with a closing prayer. After singing for 90 minutes, everyone is a little tired and ready to go to bed, so the prayer tends to be brief and to the point. Something like, “Bless us to return home safely.”

When Nola Fallows gave the prayer last week, it was to the point, but the point was not a brief one. It was an important one.

Nola Fallows turned 100 in August.

The centenarian always arrives at practice with the aid of a friend and her trusty walker. She climbs the three steps to the choir stand methodically, leaning hard on the railings and shuffling forward as needed. It takes several minutes for her to work her way to the back row where the alto section sits.

Every week Nola is there. She’ll say her voice is not the best, but she loves to sing, so she comes.

When Nola gave the closing prayer, she began by giving thanks.

Thanks for the accompanists that play so beautifully and share their talents. Thanks for the choir. Thanks for the chance to sing.

Thanks for the beautiful world and the weather. Thanks for the rain that had fallen.

Thanks for health and strength and the ability to move about.

Thanks for fellowship of the choir members.

Thanks for the patience the director shows us.

Thanks for life.

When she finished the prayer, the choir members added their solemn “Amen” to the benediction.

Her prayer sent my mind turning. During my hour-long drive back to Logan, I couldn’t stop thinking about why she had said what she did. I don’t think she was trying to preach a sermon, but one was taught all the same.

It made me wonder how much I take for granted. If Nola Fallows is thankful for her ability to get up in the morning, why should I complain about rolling out of bed to take kids to swim practice and go to the gym? What other things is she grateful for that I simply don’t bother to notice?

It’s been a year for change within my family. One of my sons is as tall as I am even though this time last year, he was six inches shorter than me. My youngest son started kindergarten. Big changes.

Am I noticing? Am I expressing gratitude for their progress? For their lives?

My extended family, too, has changed. This year we lost the family patriarch, my dad’s brother Richard. Since my grandfather passed away 25 years ago, Richard has been the glue that kept our large extended family together by gently prodding the cousins into planning reunions, fishing expeditions, shooting outings, or hunting trips.

I certainly noticed when he passed on, but did I appreciate him enough while he was here? Did I tell him thank you?

Feeling and expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to improve a person’s outlook in life. It helps to create unity and build relationships. It voices the unspoken sentiments that make life more endurable.

My former colleague columnist Jay Monson had a special gift for expressing gratitude. In March of 2020 he wrote, “I agree with Luther Burbank who wrote, ‘Like the year at the end of summer, I pause now toward the end of my allotted time, to glance backward and to gather my harvest of experience and growth and friendship and … memory … and what has been my harvest? The harvested work accomplished and aims achieved … harvested experiences of lessons which have molded and impressed my life, and the harvest of dear friendships, happy memories, And my harvest is rich and heavy and abundant.’ I feel the same way.”

Jay Monson entered his eternal rest this past February.

He sent me a note when I first started writing my columns welcoming me to the team. Though I did thank him at the time, I’d like to thank him again. I miss that good man and all he added to the world.

What else should I be grateful for? Friends and family, of course. Health and vitality. But there’s so much more.

We live in a country where we are free from fear and persecution. I’m thankful. Have I said thank you to the veterans who keep our country free?

We have a caring community where we give and support one another. I’m thankful. Have I done my part to lend a hand?

We have plenty to eat, warm places to sleep, and clothing to wear. I’m thankful. Have I shared with those who lack?

My 7th grade literature students and I are reading Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to study how a well-rounded protagonist changes, learns and grows on their journey. Scrooge learned to be thankful for his blessings and share them.

That’s the lesson I hope my students take home and a lesson I’m continuing to learn. Thank you for your patience with me along my journey.

And special thanks to Nola Fallows for sharing her 100 years of knowledge in a simple, sincere prayer.

Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, every one.”

Nola would add, “And thanks!”

Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at katecole9@yahoo.com

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