In his recent book, On Gratitude, journalist Todd Aaron Jensen reveals what some of today’s leading actors, musicians, authors, and other artists are most thankful for. Here we present excerpts from their gratitude lists; we hope they inspire you to draft your own, just in time for Thanksgiving. You can share your list through our Community Gratitude Journal or through Todd’s website, www.thegratitudelist.org, where you can also learn more about his book.
Forest Whitaker is a highly acclaimed actor, who won an Academy Award for his performance in The Last King of Scotland:
My work has allowed me to be and see places where the polarity and duality of things are everywhere evident—the jungles of the world, where people are living, literally, in the mud to the palaces of kings, and all of the emotion and ideas and ideologies between them. These are all gifts—any chance you have to see the world through someone else’s eyes is always a gift. It allows you to live your own life more clearly.
Adam McKay is the writer, producer, and director of such comedy films as Talladega Nights and Stepbrothers:
I am grateful for all of the people in the past thousands of years who died, were beaten, or were arrested for our rights and freedoms—the union people in the early twentieth century who decided they wanted a weekend or a forty-hour work week or didn’t want nine-year-olds to work full-time jobs and get abused. We so take that for granted now, because we forget how much they sacrificed for the lives we live today.
Dolly Parton has recorded such hit songs as “Here You Come Again” and “I Will Always Love You,” and has starred in the movies Steel Magnolias and Nine to Five:
I was born with a happy heart. I wake up every day expecting things to be right, and if they’re not I get to making them right….Sometimes people like to wallow in their sorrows and their sad tales, but I really believe that’s detrimental to the lives we should be living. It’s natural to have hurts and disappointments, but you have to deal with it—pray out of it, dream out of it, and get to living.
Kurt Vonnegut is a one of the great American writers, best known for books like Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. He passed away in 2007:
I tell everybody to practice some art, no matter how badly or how well. It doesn’t matter. It’s the experience of becoming—of creating—that truly matters. It is as important as sex or food. It’s a tragedy to me that our schools have cut art out of the curriculum, because (they say) it’s not a way to make a living. Well, it’s not a way to make a living; it’s a way to become, to find out what you are, what you can do, what’s inside of you.
Danielle Steel is one of the best-selling fiction authors in the world, and has written such popular books as No Greater Love to Sisters and Going Home to Passion’s Promise.:
Parenting is the most important job of my life—my greatest accomplishment and my greatest joy. I totally forgot they’d grow up and be gone, I was so busy shuttling between the soccer matches and the orthodontist and snuggling with them…Of course there are always challenges. I lost my son (Nicholas Traina) in 1997, and he was—and still is—an enormous blessing. Since his death, I’ve established two foundations in his name and we’ve been able to help thousands of people suffering with mental illness. That help has made a difference in the world. … That’s one of the ways children—even in the heartbreak—can be a real blessing.
John Krasinski is an actor best known for his role as amiable, puckish Jim Halpert in the American version of the TV show The Office:
I can’t describe how important my friends are to me, not only because I rely on them for inspiration and strength in good times and bad, but I would never be who I am without them. Each one of my friends has been so instrumental in opening up my mind to movies, books, plays, new experiences…My friends have helped me become who I always wanted to be.
Jeff Bridges has starred in the movies The Big Lebowski and The Last Picture Show, among many others. He won an Academy Award earlier this year for his role in Crazy Heart:
My wife is the big blessing in my life. We’ve been married more than 30 years. Marriage is a funny judo-deal—the so-called obstacles and pitfalls, the tough stuff, those are the real blessings. … You have to appreciate the obstacles as opportunities to open up more that you thought you could, connect more deeply than you thought you could. Nothing is too big for you when you’re really with your partner.
Alicia Keys is a singer-songwriter, who was a piano prodigy at the age of 7 and a songwriter at the age of 13. She also does humanitarian work in Africa:
Giving is the greatest way to touch a life—to know that you really can affect the world around you. It’s so empowering. You help a cause and then you learn the names and then you see the faces and then you feel their spirits and you’re making a meaningful change in this lifetime, and it’s extremely grounding and beautiful.
Good food is an amazing blessing. Whenever you can sit down to a table and eat food that is extremely delicious, and you are surrounded by people you love, and you enjoy every flavor and every bite, it’s “wow, life is good.” You can’t truly grow until you can fully appreciate a good meal.