Historically, Thanksgiving was about giving thanks for the harvest. These days, people give thanks for the food they eat, the God that brought it to them, and perhaps their good fortune in the past year.

I do that too. But this year I want to extend the metaphor of harvest to encompass my inner world. This year, I want to give heartfelt thanks to the people who tended my personal “fields,” who watered my young shoots and fertilized my thinking, who helped me grow strong and, I hope, wise.

The most important of these people are my mother, Shirley Jean Nielsen, and my grandmother Mari Ladowski.

The seven other people who most inspired and enlightened me are pictured above. You have no doubt heard of many of them. Others you may be curious about. Why, for example, is there a Hollywood actor on my list?  And who is Michael Kimmel?

Each of these people taught me important things about life, each encouraged me to think more deeply, feel more deeply, and speak more honestly.

Each name in the photo caption is a link to something special about that person. It may be a collection of photos, a list of powerful quotes, a video, a blog, or a speech delivered in 1852 before the ladies of the Rochester Anti Slavery Sewing Society. (I am not making this up.)

I hope you enjoy what you will discover when you explore these links. And I hope you will give thanks tomorrow for the women and men who helped you, too, to flower, bear fruit, and nourish the world with your gifts.