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"What's most important is often too easily forgotten" Alex Haley


In our family Thanksgiving Day is traditionally simple. It is a time for food and fellowship. The aromas of turkey, fresh baked bread and pumpkin pie draw us to the kitchen and finally the table.

During our short time of gratitude, we are all thankful for family and health. We overeat, talk too loud and laugh often.

Thanksgiving 1943 was not full of fun and fellowship for the late Alex Haley, celebrated author of the 1976 book and later miniseries Roots. He was a cook on the USS Murzim. At the end of a day spent preparing a Thanksgiving meal for everyone on the ship, he made his way out for a breath of open fresh air.

In an article entitled “Thank You” published November 21, 1982 in Parade Magazine Harley writes it was at that time, he got to thinking about Thanksgivings of his past. He searched in his mind of a way to apply Thanksgiving to the short day he had left.

“It must have taken me a half-hour to sense that maybe some key to an answer could result from reversing the word “Thanksgiving…to “Giving Thanks.” Haley wrote. “After awhile, like a dawn’s brightening, a further answer did come—that there were people to thank, people who had done so much for me that I could never possibly repay them. The embarrassing truth was I’d always just accepted what they’d done, taken all of it for granted. Not one time had I ever bothered to express to any of them so much as a simple, sincere, “Thank you.”

In the article, Haley tells of sitting down with paper and memories. He wrote heart felt notes to his Father, Grandmother and other special people in his life.

I kept Haley’s article and thought of it as I wrote letters to my parents over the years. In addition to the usual family news, I included a thank you for deeds done in the present or past. By thanking for answers to questions, I conveyed the value of their opinions. My father has passed and my mother is elderly. I sincerely hope I was able to communicate my appreciation for their continuing influence in my life.

In early December 1992, while our daughter was a junior in college, I was the subject of a paper for her sociology class. She wrote how I had helped the family and her in ways I did not realize. She gave me a copy of the paper and I will cherish it always. I need to tell her again how much it means to me.

My friend Sue sends the most meaningful thank you notes. She uses words like “beautiful, warm, and fun” when she writes or emails about coming into our home for a meal or party. How nice to receive that confirmation.

As Thanksgiving and the Holiday season approach, rereading Alex Haley’s 25-year-old article has inspired me again to say thank you by writing a short three-sentence note or better yet, a letter. As he said, it is a simple, meaningful gift. Most importantly, I should keep in mind something Haley felt so strongly about communicating that he had it printed across the bottom of his stationery. It read,

"Find the good and praise it"

Originally posted on Linda's Backroad Musings November 20, 2007.


Alia Ahmed 7 years, 5 months ago


Thank you for sharing Alex Haley's thoughts on that Thanksgiving Day so long ago and how that has inspired you to express gratitude through the years. I am thankful that my path crossed with yours and got to know through your blogs what a kind and gentle soul you are. Happy Day of Giving Thanks to you and your family!

Joe Blackford II 7 years, 5 months ago

Linda, the title of your blog caught my roving eye & I had to read further.

I had the honor of riding with Alex Haley in the rumble seat of a McPherson College Model T, during his appearance for the college's 100th anniversary. It was a short ride, from his hotel to the campus, as I took pics of his broad smile. Jean Smith, PR director, had signs made up for the T, as she knew Haley's grandfather used such an auto for advertising his lumber yard.

That evening, Haley spoke to a SRO auditorium, all awaiting his words of wisdom, and wondering on what aspect of his notable life he would share.

Haley slowly pulled us into reflecting upon our own lives, and the stories our elders held, waiting for us to ask for family history before the opportunity would pass.

My own father passed away last March. A storyteller extraordinaire, Dad had shared wonderful stories all my life. After his memorial service, Dad's cousin shared 2 stories her father & uncle had passed on from Dad in the dark of the bedroom they shared:

In the process of one-up-manship on scary tales, Dad stopped short. "Go on, Go on." his uncles urged. Dad replied "I can't." "Why not?" they asked. Dad: "I can't see your eyes in the dark."

I have to imagine the other story occurred during the holiday season we've just entered. The topic of discussion was favorite pie. Dad, as the youngest, went last: "I have TWO favorite kinds of pie, . . . . . . . . Hot & Cold."

THANX for reminding me of Haley's wisdom & my father's, too.

Linda Hanney 7 years, 5 months ago

Catsap, thank you for adding to the post with your memories of Alex Haley and sharing your father's stories. It made me wish once again that I would have written down more of my father's stories.

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