SIKESTON - As families make final preparations for Thursday's big gathering, many residents are taking time to reflect on their blessings.
Judy Morrow didn't hesitate when asked what she's most thankful for this Thanksgiving. "I'm thankful for God giving me life," she said.
And Pam Tibbs is having a difficult time naming everything she's thankful for. "It's hard to list them all," she said. "I am thankful that I live in a country where I can worship the one true God. I am so very thankful for my family and for my little granddaughter and God's blessing our lives."
"I'm thankful that I have a home, food and parents," said 9-year-old Mary Kendig.
The first thing that comes to mind for Davene Schaefer is how precious life is. "I am most thankful that God has restored the health of my youngest daughter. She is a wonderful child and a lot of people were very worried about her for several months."
Family is what David Matthews said he is thankful for. "I am most thankful for being blessed with a wonderful wife. Anyone that knows Terri would probably have her on their list of what they're thankful for as well.
"My family, all of my children as well as my sons-in-law and grandchild, are a gift I cherish every day but especially during the holiday season," he said. "I am thankful for my parents, thankful that they are good friends that we all enjoy being with as well as always being there for all of their family."
People throughout the area go in all directions this week. Tibbs said she will spend Thanksgiving at the home of her brother and sister-in-law in Jackson where everyone will arrive with their favorite Thanksgiving dish.
"My family will spend Thanksgiving at my home enjoying food prepared by each and every one of us," Schaefer chimed in. "No one person has to do all the work! My oldest daughter won't be home until Christmas though, so she will be missed."
Matthews and his family will eat at his parents' house, surrounded by family members, while Mary said her family's plans include going to her grandparents and celebrating with her aunts.
But what about the families who won't have the money for food or those individuals who may spend the day alone or dealing with a family crises?
"I'm afraid I don't think much about those who won't experience the bounty that we will enjoy," admitted Matthews. "I'm afraid that even at Thanksgiving we have become too busy, busy moving another chair into the living room, setting up another card table, getting more ice out of the freezer, quizzing aunts and uncles about nieces and nephews that couldn't make it, and on and on."
Schaefer remarked she couldn't imagine not having a family to turn to in times of greatest need and that the holidays is the perfect time to be thankful for having one. "This is a time that families should pull together and turn to one another and be thankful for every day that God has given them.
"I do think of those that do not have food or money for food," Schaefer added. "We have been so blessed as a nation, there really is no reason for anyone to go hungry here. I also think of those that are 'shut-in' because of health or age. They get very lonely, especially this time of the year."
"Thinking about people who don't have food and nobody to share it with makes me sad," said Mary.
Morrow said she often thinks of those families who must do without, adding that she prays nightly that those less fortunate will have their needs met.
"Since my parents are no longer living, I thank God for my husband and my son," Morrow said. "Life is too short for families to not resolve their problems. As a Hospice volunteer for Visiting Nurse Association, I see the love as well as the fear of loneliness on many faces. It reminds me to treat everyone you meet as if they are your family. In God's eyes we are."
Thanksgiving has a different meaning for everyone. To Morrow, it's about blessings and happy memories. "It means remembering happy times with the family no longer with me, my relatives that are here and the promise from God that one day we we'll be together again. I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and I want to remind everyone to always count their blessings and to take time to love and help one another."
For Tibbs, the holiday symbolizes a time for worship and being grateful for what God has provided. "It also means family and friends and lots of good food."
"To me, the meaning of Thanksgiving is about caring and sharing with one another," Schaefer said. "Not only food, but with your everyday life. Take time to listen to those around you and pray for them. Everyone you meet has trials and struggles in their life. And no matter how small or large they may seem, God can handle them. Give thanks to Him for your family and friends and the abundance that He has given us."
Matthews said he, too, sees Thanksgiving as a day to say thank you.
"I know Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday but it certainly sets the stage for Christmas, a season of thanking God not only for our earthly blessings but most importantly thanking God for sending his son, Jesus Christ. Terry and I are blessed beyond measure, a wonderful family, close friends, a caring community and God's promise that nothing can separate us from his love. For all of this we can say thank you, God."