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This Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for what we have

November 25, 2009

Sitting around a crude wooden supper table, a young Abraham Lincoln was reported to have listened to his father, head bowed, as he thanked the Almighty for their blessings. Opening one eye, Lincoln saw but a lone bowl of dry potatoes. To this, the boy grumbled, "mighty poor blessings."

Few in our area have not been pained, be it slightly or severely, by the deep recession that is only now starting to ease. At least statistics tell us it's starting to ease. But to those out of work or overworked or otherwise learning to live on less, statistics make a thin soup.

It's easy to give thanks in times of plenty. Or at least it should be. More often though, we forget to give thanks at all, assuming that rich and joyful times will be with us always.

There is more value and more meaning in giving thanks when times aren't as flush. For one, we can give thanks for the hope that has always been that most American of qualities. However much we may struggle, we seldom give up.

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In addition, we can always fall back on this paradox: The more we have, the less we appreciate it, while the less we have, the more we recognize its value.

Recessions can cost us the shallow happiness of gadgets and luxuries, but they cannot touch the rich happiness of friends, family, love, humor, sunshine and fresh air. They cannot touch this happiness, that is, unless we let them.

This Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for us to hit the reset button - to be grateful for the things in life that really matter; to discover a mountain trail instead of a video game; to talk instead of text; to read a book to your child; to throw your dog a Frisbee; to hold a hand; to cook a meal; to stop and take the time to appreciate the beauty that is all around us.

Next to these pleasures, our toys are placed in proper perspective. Next to them, the anger that seems to so often bubble up all around us in the public world loses its bite.

These are the pleasures that unite us all. The man of the opposing political party loves his kids, too. The woman of another faith sees the same sunset, the same moon. The children of other races and nationalities feel the same love and happiness as we do, and deserve it just as much.

We can be thankful for this thread of unification and focus on these positive human elements instead of the anger, fear, jealously and division into which we all too often slide.

We might be thankful that, should we choose to use it, we have the power to improve ourselves, rather than feel the need to improve others - whether they want to be "improved" or not.

Most importantly, we might recognize that even in our lower moments, Americans still have it pretty good. And we always have the opportunity to make it even better.

With perspective, Lincoln might have recognized that for much of the year, his family's supper table included chicken, bear, deer, catfish, berries and honey. And so it will be for us.

If our current economy is a pot of potatoes, well, at least we have something. So today, we give thanks for what we have and we give thanks for what will be. And may future Thanksgivings be as good and warm as you choose to make them.

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