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Why bother to be thankful?

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason to be thankful. The economy continues to limp along with no relief in sight. Congress appears to have failed in its efforts to end the budget impasse. Economies and governments are imploding throughout Europe. Our nation seems to be divided among the 1%, 99%, 53%, or whatever percentage you choose. It’s little wonder that we want to forego the whole calorie-laden holiday and go straight to the Black Friday sales.

I like to look at things differently.

Consider the Norman Rockwell painting to the left. It is the often parodied and sometimes ridiculed image of a perfect family Thanksgiving. A giant turkey with all the fixings, the best china and silverware, and family members chatting and — even more remarkably — getting along.

Now, consider when the painting was made — 1943.

This was a part of a series Rockwell paintings based on President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech “The Four Freedoms.” This speech became our nation’s mission statement as we fought in World War II. At the time Rockwell made this painting, the outcome of the war was still in doubt. Wartime rationing made such a sumptuous banquet difficult to have. People couldn’t look at this painting without thinking about family members fighting overseas or those who will never come home.

Still, people were thankful for what they had. They were thankful for their loved ones who were safe. They were thankful that they could look forward to the future. This gave them the courage to keep fighting to make that future brighter.

The fact that people can be thankful during such turmoil, uncertainty, and deprivation should give us pause. We focus so much on what we don’t have that we ignore the things we do have. All of us have possessions of some sort, even if they are only our memories. We have family and friends. At very least, we have our own lives, and that in itself is a foundation for hope.

Let us take a moment to set aside the Black Friday ads, set aside our grievances and worries, and count the things we have to be thankful for. We’ll find we have more than we think. And by counting the reasons to be thankful, we’ll find reasons to keep working and believing in a better future.

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