Saturday, November 29, 2008

There are still good reasons for Americans to give thanks

(Originally published 11/29/08)

Things are tough in America right now.

Given the rocky economy, you may be a little further behind on your bills than you’d like. Maybe you’ve taken a pay cut or been told not to expect that Christmas bonus this year. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe you fear that you might.

In circumstances like these, a little perspective goes a long way. Here are some of the things for which I gave thanks this week:

  • Even though adult illiteracy still exists as America’s pervasive, silent secret, I am able to write these words – and you are reading them.

  • Folks still have at least enough money in their pockets to afford a newspaper subscription or a paper out of the rack.

  • We live in a country where newspapers are free to print whatever they like – even though we may not always like what we read.

  • We had the chance to vote in a free and fair election that determined the leaders of our local, state and federal governments, and if we don’t like their performance, we know we’ll have a free and fair chance to replace them in due course.

  • The transition our government is undergoing now is taking place without the bloodshed and chaos that marks such transitions in some other countries.

  • We don’t have to worry, as many in the Congo do, about armed thugs coming to our refugee camps in the middle of the night and raping and kidnapping our children.

  • We don’t have to spend the days wondering, as parents in Haiti do, whether our children’s schools will collapse on top of them.

  • We don’t have to worry, as parents in Afghanistan do, that religious extremists may attack our daughters and throw acid in their faces as they make their way to school.

  • We aren’t still living in tent cities this winter, as many earthquake-displaced Iranians are.

  • Our Thanksgiving dinners didn’t consist of the dried mud cakes that many poverty-stricken people in Haiti must eat.

  • If we choose to give thanks at a place of worship this weekend, we don’t have to worry whether government soldiers will come in and drag us off to prison, as believers in some other nations do.

  • We aren’t in the position of hundreds of thousands of other families across Asia, who will mark next month the four-year anniversary of the tsunamis that swept away their loved ones.

    As it has been observed, if you have something to eat in the refrigerator, can put on clothes, live under a roof and have a place to sleep, you are better off than 70 percent of the people living in the world. An estimated 500 million across the globe are dealing with dangers of war, imprisonment, torture or hunger.

    This holiday season may not be shaping up exactly as you had expected. But when you’re tempted to lament your circumstances, remember the reality of your good fortune.

    Then reach out to others, whether across the world or right down your street. You may end up being a reason for which someone else gives thanks.
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