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Betty Stone: A troubled Thanksgiving




It occurs to me that, as Thanksgiving approaches this year -- the second Thanksgiving of the economic plunge -- some people may have a difficult time being thankful. Just recently the jobless rate reached double digits, and that does not include the underemployed. That''s still not as bad as the rate during the Great Depression, when about a fourth of the workforce were out of work. Ten percent is not as bad as 24 or 25 percent, but for the person who is unemployed, it is 100 percent. 


It is challenging, but perhaps therapeutic, to strive for a grateful attitude. If the glass is only half full, at least it can quench your thirst. I have observed that the people who find something in their lives to be thankful for usually fare much better during crises. Gratitude is a powerful antidepressant. While you are counting your blessings, your brain is disengaged from your complaints. It is difficult to think two thoughts at the same time. Not many of us are that ADD. 


We really do still have a lot to be thankful for in this country. We do have a tendency to reach out to help others; we just so often can''t find the vehicle we trust to do so. I suggest that if we become personally involved in some of those agencies, we will find our efforts more satisfying. 


If we take a broad view and look at the world, we see many people suffering far more than we are. Africa comes to my mind first of all, beset by famine, poverty, fighting, AIDS, genocide, refugees, you name it. I hurt for the average people in Afghanistan or Iraq, with war constantly around them. Then there are those at the mercy of natural disasters -- hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, floods, fires and famine. Sometimes life seems downright scary. 


Yet we still contend that it is good, and we hold on to it. We savor it when we consider the blessings we enjoy, although we may sometimes hardly notice them. Sometimes I like to try to think of the small, seemingly insignificant things that I routinely enjoy.  


Once, for a while, I went to sleep at night trying to enumerate five new things I was thankful for, things I might not have listed before. In a strange way it was somewhat of a challenge to come up with something new each day. Since I would already be in bed, it was tempting to think first every night of smooth sheets, a soft pillow and a comfortable bed. But I also thought of other things, some of them far-fetched. I think I''ll close with my list for today, things I might have missed when we give thanks for our traditional bounty. I invite you to join me with your own very personal list of things for which you do not usually think to be grateful: 


1. Color: I love having the ability to see it. 


2. Thermostats 


3. Being able to swim and having an opportunity to do it  


4. Being able to read a written language 


5. The freedom to go and come as I please 


A list like that could go on and on, couldn''t it? And so it does. All the bits and pieces of just an ordinary life make up an extraordinary and unbelievably complicated mosaic. When we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let''s focus on the incredibly long list of the things that enrich us, rather than the deluge of problems that threaten to drown our joy in this gift of life. We''ll feel better for it.



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