Sixteen years of Catholic school taught me the most important math lesson of all: how to count your blessings. I try to do it all year long, but the holiday season always makes me more aware of how truly blessed I am. And I'm older now, so I no longer roll my eyes in disgust when someone suggests starting the Thanksgiving meal with a list of everything we're grateful for. Even though I did have a lot to be thankful for back then, like my pogo stick, the complete works of Judy Blume, a best friend with an in-ground pool, and bologna and Miracle Whip sandwiches, I hated to divulge such intimate details with others. Now my list has matured a little, so I actually like to talk about the gifts God has given me. He has bestowed upon me good health, a strong marriage, three loving children and as of eight months ago, this column. Which makes me think about how grateful I am for country music. Not just the music as a whole, but the little things about it that I know I couldn't live without. Like songs about Jesus that don't just get airtime around Christmas. What other genre would play hits about temptation, crucifixion and pearly gates all year long? I'm also eternally grateful for all those off-the-beaten-path Nashville pawn shops that sold guitars to the would-be artists who grew up to be the artists we now know and love. And even though I've never been to either, I'm thankful for rodeos and honky-tonks, for inspiring songwriters with so much quality material. I've also added to my list all those lyrics that fill our eyes up with tears, like Trace Adkins' "They They Do", and the ones that fill our hearts up with laughter, like Terri Clark's "Girls Lie Too". And while I try to avoid adding material positions to my list, there's a pair of red cowboy boots that I feel honored to pull on every day. That's because after God blessed me with the boots, Kenny, Keith, Trace, Buddy, Tim and Alan blessed them with their signatures.
But that's just my list. Every country fan probably has their own. I think it's safe to say that we're all thankful for:
- The cry of a steel guitar.
- Not-quite-perfect rhymes, like Roseanna and Texarkana .
- Stars who sign autographs with an aw-shucks attitude.
- Fanclub message boards where we can talk openly about our addictions.
- CMT, for its ability to fill our lives with country music videos 24, 7.
- Fiddle players who go through at least three bows in a night.
- Radio DJs who love the same artists we love.
- Greatest Hits CDs.
- Signs that country artists are human, like DUIs, divorces and boob jobs.
- Skoal rings, tattoos, cowboy boots and tight Wranglers.
- Front row seats. Whether you win them, or get a second mortgage to pay for them, they never let you down.