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Thank you


Thank you
Alex Haley It was 1943, during World War 2, and I was a young U.S. coastguardsman. My ship, the USS Murzim, had been under way for several days. Most of her holds contained thousands of cartons of canned or dried foods. The other holds were loaded with five-hundred-pound bombs packed delicately in padded racks. Our destination was a big base on the island of Tulagi in the South Pacific. I was one of the Murzim’s several cooks and, quite the same as for folk ashore, this Thanksgiving morning had seem us busily preparing a traditional dinner featuring roast turkey. Well, as any cook knows, it’s a lot of hard work to cook and serve a big meal, and clean up and put everything away. But finally, around sundown, we finished at last. I decided first to go out on the Murzim’s afterdeck for a breath of open air. I made my way out there, breathing in great, deep draughts while walking slowly about, still wearing my white cook’s hat. I got to thinking about Thanksgiving, of the Pilgrims, Indians, wild turkeys, pumpkin, corn on the cob, and the rest. Yet my mind seemed to in quest of something else-some way that I could personally apply to the close of thanksgiving. It must have taken me a half hour to sense that maybe some key to an answer could result from reversing the word “Thanksgiving”-at least that suggested a verbal direction, “Giving thanks.” Giving thanks-as in praying, thanking God, I thought. Yes, of course. Certainly. Yet my mind continue turning the idea over. After a while, 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 onetime had I ever bothered to express to any of them so much as a simple, sincere “Thank you.” At least seven people had been particularly and indelibly/(lastingly) helpful to me. I realized, swallowing hard, that about half of them had since died-so they were forever beyond any possible expression of gratitude from me. The more I thought about it the more ashamed I became. Then I pictured the three who were still alive and, within minutes, I was down in my cabin. Sitting at a table with writing paper and memories of things each had done, I tried composing genuine statements of heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to my dad, Simon A. Haley, a professor at the old Agricultural Mechanical Normal College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas; to my grandma, Cynthia Palmer, back in our little hometown of Henning, Tennessee; and to the Rev. Lonual Nelson, my grammar school principal, retired and living in Ripley, six miles north of Henning. The texts of my letters began something like, “Here, this Thanksgiving at sea, I find my thoughts upon how much you have done for me, but I have never stopped and said to you how much I feel the need to thank you-“ And briefly I recalled for each of them specific acts performed on my behalf. For instance, something uppermost about my father was how he had impressed upon me from boyhood to love books and reading. In fact, this graduated into a family habit of after-dinner quizzes at the table about books read most recently and now words learned. My love of books never diminished and later led me toward writing books myself. So many times I have felt a sadness when exposed to modern children so immersed in the electronic media that they have little or no awareness of the marvelous world to be discovered in books. I reminded the Reverend Nelson How each morning he would open our little country town’s grammar school with a prayer over his assembled students. I told him that whatever positive things I had done since had been influenced at least in part by his morning school prayers. In the letter to my grandmother, I reminded her of a dozen ways she used to teach me how to tell the truth,

to share, and to forgiving and considerate of others. I thanked her for the years of eating her good cooking, the equal of which I had not found since. Finally, I thanked her simply for having sprinkled my life with stardust. Before I slept, my three letters went into our ship’s office mail sack. They got mailed when we reached Tulagi Island. We unloaded cargo, reloaded with something else, then again we put to sea in the routine familiar to us, and as the days became weeks, my little personal experience receded. Sometimes, when we were at sea, a mail ship would rendezvous and bring us mail form home, which, of course, we accorded topmost priority. Every time the ship’s loudspeaker rasped, “Attention! Mail call!” two hundred-odd shipmates came pounding up on deck and clustered about the two seamen, standing by those precious bulging gray sacks. They were alternately pulling out fistfuls of letters and barking successive names of sailors who were, in turn, shouting back “Here! Here!” amid the pushing. One “mail call” brought me responses from Grandma, Dad, and the Reverend Nelson-and my reading of their letters left me not only astonished but more humbled than before. Rather than saying they would forgive than I hadn’t previously thanked them, instead, for Pete’s sake, they were thanking me-for having remembered, for having considered they had done anything so exceptional. Always the college professor, my dad had carefully avoided anything he considered too sentimental, so I knew how moved he was to write me that, after having helped educate many young people, he now felt that his best results included his own son. The Reverend Nelson wrote that his decades as a “simple, old-fashioned principal” had ended with schools undergoing such swift changes that he had retired in self-doubt. “I heard more of what I had done wrong than what I did right,” he said, adding that my letter had brought him welcome reassurance that his career had been appreciated. A glance at Grandma’s familiar handwriting brought back in a flash memories o standing alongside her white rocking chair, watch her “setting down” some letter to relatives. Character by character, Grandma would slowly accomplish one word, then the next, so that a finished page would consume hours. I wept over the page representing my Grandma’s recent hours invested in expressing her loving gratefulness to me-whom she used to diaper! Much later, retired from the Coast Guard and trying to make a living as a writer, I never forgot how those three “thank you” letters gave me an insight into how most human beings go about longing in secret for more of their fellows to express appreciation for their efforts. Now, approaching anther Thanksgiving, I have asked myself what will I wish for all who are reading this, for our nation, indeed for our whole world-since, quoting a good and wise friend of mine, “In the end we are mightily and merely people, each with similar needs.” First, I wish for us, of course, the simple common sense to achieve world peace, that being paramount for the very survival of our kind. And there is something else I wish-so strongly that I have had this line printed across the bottom of all my stationery: “Find the good-and praise it.” Reading comprehension

1. the word indelibly in “seven people had been particularly and indelibly helpful to me”(para 10) means a. partially b. temporarily c. unforgettably d. unhappily 2. the word immersed in “modern children so immersed in the electronic media” (para14) means a. ignorant b. absorbed c. frightened d. misled 3. which of the following would be a good alternative title for this selection? a. the importance of showing Gratitude b. the three most important people in my life c. a lonely time d. why letters are important 4. which of the following sentences best expresses the main idea of the selection? a. the author took the people he loved for granted. b. The author felt grateful to arrive home safely from the war. c. The author’s father, grandmother, and grammar school principal were delighted to receive letters of thanks d. Writing letters of thanks to the important people in his life taught the author the value of showing appreciation 5. during world war II, the author served a. on a cargo ship b. in the navy c. on an army base d. on an aircraft carrier 6. the author encourages his lecture audiences to a. make thanksgiving a special day b. write to company presidents c. thank their elders d. work for world peace 7. true or false?____ the author’s father taught him to love books and reading. 8. In para 14, the author implies that a. children should watch less television. b. He resented his father’s after-dinner quizzes. c. He dislikes children. d. His father disapproved of his choice to be a writer. 9. the author implies that___ a. his father was not openly emotional. b. The Reverend Lonual Nelson’s teaching methods were ineffective. c. He never achieved success as a professional writer. d. He regrets the years he spent in the Coast Guard. 10. the author assumed that the people he wrote to a. would be angry that he had not expressed thanks much sooner. b. Would not reply

c. Might have forgotten the incidents he referred to. d. Would brag about his letters. Structure and technique 1. which pattern or patterns of development does Haley use in his essay? Explain. 2. Paragraph 4contains a vivid description of part of Haley’s Thanksgiving night on the Murzim. What sensory details(sight, smell, hearing, taste, and / or touch) does he provide? What is the effect of all these details? 3. most of Haley’s essay is about the three thank-you letters he wrote. Why do you think he included the anecdote about the helpful man at the airport? How is it related to his point about giving thanks? 4. writers’ most common purposes are to inform, to entertain, and to persuade. Which purpose- or purposesdo you think Haley has in mind? Critical reading and discussion 1. before Haley decides to write to his loved ones, what thoughts and images go through his mind as he reflects on the meaning of Thanksgiving? What is the connection between these traditional images and what Haley finally realizes? 2. Alex Haley was far from home when he decided to thank the important people in his life. If he had remained at home, do you think he would still have thanked these people? Why or why not? 3. how does Haley feel about the three responses to his thank-you letters? What conclusions about human nature does he draw form these responses? 4. Haley is a world-renowned writer. Who might have influenced his decision to be a writer? What made these people such powerful role models in his life? In general, what would you say are the qualities of a good role model? Writing Assignments Assignment 1 There is an old Chinese proverb: “Give me a fish, and I will eat for a day. Teach me to fish, and I will eat fro a life time.” Think of someone in your life who taught you something important that you have used ( or benefited from ) ever since. Write a thank-you letter to this person, telling him or her exactly how you have gained or what you have learned as a result. The person might be a parent, a relative, a family friend, a favorite teacher, or a favorite sports hero or movie star. Organize your letter in the form of a five-paragraph essay. In your introduction, you might mention how you know this person or why you were prompted to write the letter. In your thesis, state that this person has been especially important to you because you learned something important from him or her— and tell what that “something” is. In each of your supporting paragraphs, show one way in which this knowledge or skill has made a difference in your life. Alternatively, write about three different people, each of whom has taught you something important. Assignment 2 At the end of his essay, Alex Haley says we should “find the good--- and praise it.” Think of three kinds of people who do important work yet receive little praise. Such people might include: Teacher Nurses garbage collectors police officers fathers and mothers school maintenance workers People who keep essential services going Write an essay about three of these groups, giving specific reasons why each deserves to be praised for good work. Alternatively, write an essay about one of these groups , discussing three specific areas in which it deserves praise.


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