Choosing Gratitude

On the book table at Anderson’s Oncology Center,

I find Nancy DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude. Paging through, I see a heart-rending story: In a New Delhi slum, a three year old boy is leaning against the cot of his dying mother. The boy’s eyes are hollow, his stomach is distended, and his face is fly-infested.

     “Standing there in that slum,” says Paul Tripp, “I felt all complaints I had ever spoken as if they were a weight on my shoulders.” Later, when Mr. Tripp returned to his home in America, he asked a church leader from India who had come to the states to study, “What do you think of Americans?” The man from India answered, “You have no idea how much you have, and yet you always complain.”

As I read, I become ashamed of my self-centered grumbling. I am nudged to give thanks for “common mercies,” such as bath soap, toothpaste, hot water, air conditioning, and so many other things that I normally take for granted.

I also give thanks for the great big things, such as excellent medical care, kind, caring people who treat me with dignity in my most vulnerable moments, smiles, encouraging words, books that elevate my thoughts, and prayers.

Nancy DeMoss also brings up the matter of giving thanks to God for those people who have touched our lives and who need our expressed gratitude.

Pastor William Stidger wrote a letter of thanks to his English teacher who had first inspired in him a love for literature and poetry, preparing him to become a writer. In return mail, he received a feebly scrawled note from his former teacher:

     “William, I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, lonely, like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.”

Some time ago, my husband, a retired Air Traffic Controller, felt an urge to write a thank-you letter to someone who had touched his life:

“Colonel Sam, you had a great influence on me when I was a young man. Before entering air traffic control school, I would be required to pass a physical exam. I failed because I was underweight. However, they told me to gain weight and come back in a few weeks. You flew me to Keesler Air Force Base in the summer of 1954 for the second physical, and perhaps you looked at me and thought I was still too skinny to pass the test. When we were air borne, you handed me a sack of bananas and said, “Eat these and you will weigh more.” I passed the physical, and that opened the door to my future.”

Colonel Sam Forbert responded with a phone call, saying that someone had done the same favor for him when he was a young man.


Virginia Dawkins is a newspaper columnist. Her personal experience stories and devotionals have been published in a series of Cup of Comfort books. She and her husband live in Meridian, Mississippi.


Pets on Vacation

Vacations are meant for everyone in the family, including the pet.

But wanting your pet to be a part and being able to include your pet are two different things. A “pet friendly” vacation involves a lot of preparation and preparation takes time. You’ll not only have to stay in a pet friendly environment, but you’ll need to know all the rules beforehand so no surprises crop up once you get there.

Trips that require flying are more complicated.

In fact, the ASPCA doesn’t recommend flying with pets because of the stress it causes. Some airlines allow smaller animals in the cabin if the crate fits under the seat, but not all our furry friends are small. So if your vacation requires flying and you can’t bear to leave your pet behind, consider these ASPCA tips:

  1. Check different airlines for guidelines on pet travel. Choose the one that works best for the safety of your pet and your peace of mind, even if you pay a little more.
  2. Your pet must have proper identification for air travel. The ASPCA recommends a microchip for identification and a collar and ID tag that includes the trip destination. 
  3. Secure your pet’s health certificate from the vet dated no more than ten days prior to take off. If vacationing outside the continental United States, obtain animal health care requirements from the foreign office of your travel destination.
  4. Use a USDA-approved shipping crate that allows your pet sitting, standing, lying down and turning around space. Line the crate with bedding. On the top and on the side of the crate, clearly label in large print “Live Animal.” Tape a photo of yourself on the carrier and legibly provide your name, address and telephone number, your pet’s destination point, and who will pick him up. With arrows, indicate the crate’s upright position. Also, carry with you a recent photograph of your pet.
  5. Placing a dish of frozen water into the crate before loading it onto the plane assures that your pet has access to water while in flight. Tape a pouch of dried food outside the crate so airline personnel can feed your pet during long-distance flights and layovers.
  6. The ASPCA does not recommend tranquilizing your pet because medication often hinders normal breathing. If you feel your pet needs tranquilizing, ask your veterinarian for the pros and cons.
  7. Direct flights decrease the chances of your pet being misplaced or mishandled by baggage personnel. Again, the extra cost is worth it.

At the vacation destination, the fun begins, but the safety doesn’t end.

Be mindful of these tips before taking your pet sightseeing in a car:

  1. Before vacation, try to take your pet on short rides in the family car and work up to extended trips.

  2. Pets should travel on an empty stomach to keep from getting carsick. Still, keep fresh water on hand so they stay hydrated.

  3. The car and the crate, if using one, should be well-ventilated at all times.

  4. Pets should not ride in the back of an open truck or with their head out the window. Flying objects cause serious damage to the eye.

  5. Stop occasionally so your pet can potty and exercise.

  6. Never leave your pet in a closed up vehicle or in the vehicle alone.


A well-planned vacation is a joy to everyone. Months and even years later, when you share photos with friends and family, in the middle of all the excitement will be one happy pet!  

By Richelle Putnam




Teacher Man

Fred Brown remembers gathering eggs on his father’s farm,

milking cows, and drinking warm milk, cream and all, after milking those cows. He remembers when you could buy a great big Pepsi Cola for two nickels and when top pay for working a day job was two dollars a day. When he was fourteen years old his father died, and since he was the oldest in his family, Fred had to quit school and go to work. He did not complete his education until he enlisted in the Army and earned his GED.

Today, Fred is 87 years old

and spends his days working with second graders at Crestwood Elementary School. He began as a reading tutor and worked only one hour a week, but that was not enough for Mr. Fred– he wanted more time with the children. Now he volunteers three days a week and stays with the children all day, teaching them to read and properly pronounce words. He loves reading Dr. Seuss books with the students, and he also helps with writing, punctuation, and math problems. However, he believes that those children need much more than that. “Children, on their journey through this life,” says Mr. Fred, “need encouragement and praise and lots of one on one conversation with people who care about them.”

Some years ago, Mr. Fred had a stroke

that left him with partial impairment on one side of his body and now he uses a walker. There are no elevators at Crestwood School, so when it’s time to climb the stairs the children become very protective of their friend; while some children scramble for the privilege of carrying his walker up the stairs, others trail along watchfully as Mr. Fred grips the handrail to climb the steps.

Author Frank McCourt wrote a book called Teacher Man.

In it he describes his poverty stricken childhood in Ireland: “It Deprived me of self-esteem, triggered spasms of self-pity, paralyzed my emotions, made me cranky, envious, and disrespectful of authority, retarded my development, kept me from rising in the world and made me unfit, almost, for human society.”

Nevertheless, Frank McCourt had teachers who inspired him to learn;

they were guides and mentors. He remembers Mr. O’Halloran, the headmaster in a school in Limerick, Ireland, who said, “Your mind is a treasure house that you should stock well and it’s the one part of you the world can’t interfere with.” After coming to America, he was able to attend college, to become a teacher who inspired others to learn, to author best-selling books, and to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

In Teacher Man, I read these words:

“Kids have stuff in their heads so dark and deep it’s beyond our comprehension.”

In today’s society, there is a lot of darkness hovering around our children, and each child needs someone to open a door of hope and let in rays of light. Good teachers help shape lives, and sometimes, in the midst of a crowded classroom, those teachers need a little help with the shaping. This is where faithful volunteers like Mr. Fred fit in.

Mr. Fred believes that God created each child with gifts and abilities

to be used in this world, but he knows that some may never reach their potential without lots of help. They need someone to say, over and over again, “You can do it, try again,” and “Yes, you’ve done a good job–I knew you could!” Some days they need a shoulder to lean on, and sometimes they just need a great big hug or a treat from Mr. Fred’s candy bag.

By Virginia Dawkins


Image courtesy of Phaitoon at


What It Means To Be Family

In 1948, the United States declared the right to family as a human right

and found it to be the most fundamental unit of social organization. Families provide the primary care and support for members of society from birth through old age. Family members understand themselves to be a part of that group and generally accept a degree of obligation to provide care for one another. It’s these people that Robert Frost may have had in mind when he wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” As a member of the human family, they have to take you because you belong to them and you are one of them.

So, family is primary for humans.

The most obvious responsibilities for families are preserving and caring for children. This duty involves feeding, clothing, sheltering, teaching and keeping them from harm. Families are social institutions with their own histories, features, and functions and having their own goals and purposes. Families are valuable for what they can do for us, and for what they are and for what they contribute to our communities.

However, there is no one picture that depicts all families.

They come in many sizes, shapes, colors and configurations. They are expected to be a structure of love and trust. Even when these are absent, messages about how to be in relationships and in the world are forged by its members.

We get our identities from our families.

Each of us is someone’s child, someone’s brother or sister and someone’s grandchild. Fragments of stories that parents, siblings, and other family members tell help children to build the narrative for their lives and construct their identities. As children acquire self awareness, revisions occur at about age six and they assume they are independent in their thoughts and beliefs. They develop that sense of self and incorporate or in opposition the narratives from family members. One feature that can’t be helped is family members encumber their children with a conception of how to treat and to think about others, for good of for ill.

Families are expected to be places of love.

Children need love just as much as they need food, clothing, and the other goods and services families provide. However, it is not a service like clean clothes, a hot bath or a dinner. Specific kinds of behaviors teach children how to develop interpersonal connection. This is a process for giving and receiving love that is designed to help children learn how to be in relationships with others.  When the child is an infant, the connection is one sided; the parents give and the child receives. But what they give is themselves. Children learn to give love by receiving it. 

Family is where we get our morals.

While adults are teaching children to walk, talk, eat and be civilized, they are also teaching them how to see the world and also how to be in the world. In other words, how to make sense of life and your part in it. As a result, children learn their parents’ view on the world.  It may be full of both useful and useless materials. Parents can only teach what they know and are themselves a product of their world. If the messages are mixed with resentment, hate, intimidation, and misinformation about themselves and others, the child may have to unlearn some of the material to be acceptable and successful with their lives. This is where the idea (attributed to Socrates) that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” “The unexamined life” refers to a life lived by rote under the rules of others without examining whether or not one wants to live with those beliefs, feelings, behaviors or rules.

Indeed, people are important in every aspect of out lives.

For better or worse, in good-enough families the sense of security that comes from knowing that we do not navigate this world alone is important. We need others. We value the ability to share our lives and our selves with others and find it tragic when people can’t do that.

As we gather for Thanksgiving, an important family holiday in these parts,

we often notice values and behaviors espoused by our family members which we find hard to endure and they bring us great concern. It’s important to plan ahead to keep things as peaceful as possible. These 5 suggestions from Dr. Nicole Joseph, a licensed clinical psychologist, may help. 

What’s a person to do?

  • Refrain from making “always” and “never” statements. You always put me down or you never listen to me. Do not re-hash the past; save it for another day.
  • Refrain from discussing the big three: Politics, Money, and Religion.
  • Refrain from telling embarrassing stories about others.
  • Refrain from negative family gossip.
  • Refrain from discussion about eating or drinking habits. Thanksgiving is often a day of excess. This is not the day to fix other people.

Remember, as much as we love and need our family members, the only behaviors we can control or change are our own. Make sure your’s fosters connections.


© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D.

Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives in Tunica and writes with the Tunica Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at for more articles and books.


Photo “Happy Family enjoying holiday” by imagerymajestic and courtesy of Free Digital Photos