During the traditional season of thanks, it’s interesting to find out what our neighbors really are thankful for.

Or, in the case of neighborhood fifth-graders, what they aren’t thankful for.

Big houses, expensive cars, shiny jewelry, stacks of cash – these adult favorites apparently don’t even register on the 11-year-old scale.

Friends. Pets. Parents. Family. Even life itself. That’s what the fifth-graders in three neighborhood elementary schools said they were thankful for during our second annual “Things I’m Thankful For!” program, sponsored this year by The Science Place at Fair Park. Additional sponsors include the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. (Participating schools received Science Place and Mavericks tickets from our sponsors.)

One fifth grade class each from Robert E. Lee, Alex Sanger and Martha Turner Reilly elementary schools was selected to participate, and teachers asked their students to write a brief essay explaining what the Thanksgiving holiday means to them.

The students’ drafts were worked and reworked. Then, teachers selected the best essays for review by our judges: Ronnie Sayewitz with the Dallas Business Journal, neighborhood resident John Kirkpatrick with the Dallas Morning News; and Steve Leach with Half Price Books.

Some of the children wrote about being thankful for life’s most simple pleasures, such as “my cat Boots laying on my bed when I get home” or “a slice of chocolate cake.”

Other students wrote of serious issues typically beyond the years of a fifth-grader: “The one thing that I am thankful for the most is being adopted. I was adopted by my mother and father when I was about three months old. If I was not adopted, I would not have anything I have now.”

They all wrote about the people and things that give them joy, and perhaps that’s a good place to begin celebrating this holiday season.

NICOLE GRESHAM

Wallace Elementary

The thing I am thankful for is my family because they are always there for me. They are kind and loving to me. I am also thankful for my teachers; they teach everything I know. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be where I am today. I am grateful for sports because it is something I look forward to in life, like winning the Olympics for one thing. I am also thankful for my friends for making me feel comfortable anywhere I am. I am thankful for the government for making all the right decisions for our country. I am thankful for my dog because when I am lonely, she is always there to cheer me up.

JONATHAN L. WALKER

White Rock Elementary

I am thankful for having my mom to get me food and care for me. My mom is a great person. She has a great sense of humor, and she’s fun to be with. If everyone had a mom like mine, everyone would be happy all the time. It’s great having a mom with a sense of humor because when I am upset, my mom cheers me up. My mom is the nicest person you’ve ever met. And I love her, and I am sure she loves me.

MATT YTURRI

White Rock Elementary

I am thankful for my parents. I believe that every child deserves both mother and father. It is sad to see a baby or child that has been abandoned or abused. Parents are there to protect you and help you with your problems. Without parents, children would feel unloved and have no one to care for or protect them. My parents are divorced, and even though they disagree with each other, they really love my sister and me. Having your parents divorced is very hard. You go from house to house and feel like a beanbag being tossed around. Even though it gets hard sometimes, they always make me feel loved and protected.

MOLLY HOGUE

Wallace Elementary School

I’m thankful for teachers, because without teachers you couldn’t read, write or do math. Without those, you couldn’t get a job so you would end up on the streets. No matter how much you like or dislike teachers, you’ll be thankful for them someday. I’m also thankful for sports, because without sports, you would get fat and be a coach potato. I’m glad I can play sports because I love sports. My dad is coach of two of my teams. Sports help you to learn to get along with each other. My dad is always telling us to do our best and try to get along with others. Now I know what he means. That’s what I’m thankful for.

RACHEL MANNY

Moss Haven Elementary

I am thankful for a great many things. If I had to write them all down, it would be very difficult. There are a few that are important, though. First, I am thankful for my family and friends. They help me when I need help, and cheer me up when I am sad. Life would be very dull without any friends. Second, I am thankful for chocolate. What would it be like without a scoop of chocolate ice cream or a slice of chocolate cake. I am thankful for many other things, but these are my favorites.

ESLISHIA CHATMAN

Wallace Elementary

Have you ever been thankful for something that you loved with all your heart? I have. One of them is my family. My mom is a single mom with three children. She has to work two jobs to take care of me, my brother and my little sister. The other thing I am thankful for is my friends. They are Jonna, Dawn, Lily and Melissa. My friends are the greatest. If I didn’t have any friends, I wouldn’t have anyone to tell my feelings to. Oh, my mom is a great friend, too. My mom and I can talk about anything. I came home the other day and told her this boy has a crush on me. We must have sat and had a two-hour girl talk. The first thing I am thankful for is being able to go to school and learn as much as I can. These are the things I am most thankful for.

TREY BROWNING

White Rock Elementary

One of the things I am thankful for is my cat “Boots.” Sometimes she is lying on my bed when I get home. She’s either on my bed, on the front porch or at the food bowl. She had four babies two years ago. We only got to keep two, Tiger and Salty. Right now, they are two years old, but even bigger than Boots! We named my cat “Boots” because she looks like she has little boots on (like sox.) That is one of the many things I am thankful for.

JIMMIE HOLOTIK

Moss Haven Elementary School

I have many things to be thankful for. Some of these things other people might not be thankful for. Most of these things are very different, too. Family is one of the things I am thankful for. My family is very sweet and kind to me; I think that is good. They all protect me in many ways. All of my family, sisters, cousins, parents, uncles, aunts…everyone. Another thing I am very, very thankful for is God. He always gives me someone to talk to and is always there for me. God helps me with many things like understanding deaths in my family, injuries and more. The last things I am thankful for are my horses. Those horses are the best things that have ever happened to me. Horses are my life.

SAM STELL

White Rock Elementary

I am thankful for God because I feel so good knowing that a very good friend of mine is in heaven. Brian died about a year ago from cancer. He was a very good friend and a Christian. When Brian got sick, he lost a leg to cancer. Now, I like to think that he is running around in heaven with two strong legs. It does not matter how old or young you are, everyone can believe in God. Yes, we all have doubts, but even though we don’t deserve to go to heaven, we still have a chance.

HOLLY HENDERSON

Moss Haven Elementary

There are many things that I have to be thankful for in my life. I could never put them all into 100 words. We are all uniquely blessed by God, and we should all be grateful for the gifts we are given. The one thing that I am most thankful for is my health. I do get sick, but I have never had a serious illness or disease. This I am very grateful for. We rarely realize how much better off we are than others. We are always wanting more when we don’t really need more. What we do need is to appreciate how truly blessed we are.