Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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A free-flowing unfinished holiday list of things I'm grateful for
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   12/02/2007)

I love the way She wears her trees, wild and tangled, blowing in the breeze, or in orderly rows groomed for renewable harvest.

To live in a place where strangers still say "Bless your heart" or

"What can I get for you, Honey?"

For free-range chickens and pumpkin soup and tacos and sushi and okra and pickled beets and turkey dressing and gravy.

A country where Mom and Dad and Junior and Sis dress up on Sunday mornings and go some place to think on eternity and goodness and imbibe inspiring music and commune with neighbors.

To those who keep it real by embracing revelations of science and seek to know the pure teachings of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount and Buddha and the Upanishads and take the things they read, sing and listen to in a spirit of wonder and generosity and metaphors to ponder.

To those who refrain from turning plowshares into swords.

For the goofball optimism of politicians with no chance of winning who still run for president just to put good ideas on the table.

For tables and ladles and carpentry tools.

For leaves that spangle autumn trails.

For hippies who camp in crowns of ancient trees to call attention to wasteful harvests.

For volunteer fire departments and service clubs and food pantries.

For big round bales of hay softening the scenery.

For people who bike or walk to work.

I'm thankful that one may write, "Our government lied to us," as I've done many times in this very space, without fearing a knock in the night...

For the ACLU and others who keep such knocks at bay by speaking the truth about torture and loss of civil liberties.

I'm thankful that even simple-minded phrases like "Love it or leave it" imply the liberty to come and go and the existence of people not afraid to speak their minds.

For Cindy Sheehan, the Dixie Chicks, Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinch, Helen Thomas, the late Molly Ivins, and for Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern, Mary Wilson, Greg Palast and others who stood up to be counted.

For Truthout and Moveon and CommonDreams and those who still stand up to be counted.

For autumn festivals and county fairs with their Tilt-A-Whirls and dart games and prizewinning melons and beauty contests and freak shows.

For the sweet waitress who cried after my Tuesday night writing group's last visit ever to the late, lamented Charlie Pepper's restaurant in Knoxville.

That it's possible to ponder six impossible things before breakfast while reading the daily blogs.

For a country where ordinary folks start new businesses and mean it when they tell their children, "You can become anything you put your mind to."

Where amid all the blather and shouting it's still possible to hear reasoned debate or just good conversation and absorb light amid all the heat.

Where lightning bugs float from the ground in timeless choreography flashing neon gold upon summer eve's black velvet.

For hummingbirds, herons, woodpeckers and doves I've beheld all in one summer run.

I'm thankful for "America the Beautiful" and "Summertime" and "Cry Me A River" and "Just A Closer Walk with Thee" and "Georgia On My Mind" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Stardust" and "My Girl" and "What A Wonderful World" and "Me and Bobby McGhee" and "An American In Paris" and a thousand more pearls from an amazing sea of musical tides.

For a country where it's possible to believe in evolution AND God, a free market AND universal healthcare, the welfare of troopers AND world peace, a clean environment AND jobs, the need for highways AND open spaces.

A country where some flaunt sensuality while others maintain dignified reserve.

I'm grateful for a history sprinkled with larger-than-life characters such as Ben Franklin, Sam Houston, Mark Twain, Crazy Horse, Walt Whitman, Mother Jones, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Ken Kesey, Johnny Cash, Katherine Hepburn, Jerry Garcia.

For a nation of independent men, liberated women and freed slaves.

I'm grateful to whistle blowers who keep us honest.

To revisionists who point out the flaws in history, yes, including Columbus, the Pilgrims, the Cold War, and who tell stories true all the way through so we may know what really happened to the Cherokee and the Sioux and African-Americans and the buffalo and passenger pigeons and what's happening now to polar bears and salamanders and songbirds.

I'm grateful for them.

I'm thankful for stellar wizardly that pierced the rings of Saturn, launched us to the moon, peered to the edges of space and time and gave us that sacred icon of our times, the Whole Earth.

I savor "It Happened One Night" and "Double Indemnity" and "Intolerance" and "The Wanderers" and "Blade Runner" and "Casablanca" and "Jerry McGuire" and "Star Trek" and "Northern Exposure."

Sacred phrases that roll down the ages, "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and "When in the course of human events" and "Fourscore and seven years ago..."

For freedom to protest and fuss and love with abandon, dance in the streets, play our music loud and shout at those who play our music loud, to gather together and roast turkeys and play touch football and fly kites and howl at the moon and...

As I said it's an unfinished list, like our unfinished world. Thanks be for all of it, especially the sweet, inspiring people I'm blessed to live my life around. You know who you are.