Thanksgiving has arrived once again in the United States. Some years it can, at least at first, be difficult to find things to offer thanks for; this was one of those years for me. Not only did my father pass away this year, but my youngest daughter was hospitalized twice due to her mental illness. More minor negatives for the year included a root canal, a vitreous detachment in my right eye last week, and plumbing problems just this week.On the broader stage of the world, things have not gone well: terrorist incidents in France, war against ISIS, tensions between Russia and Turkey, the whole Iranian debacle. The world seems a dangerous place on the brink of disaster.
On the other hand, if I think about it, I can also say that I had a great year. On the personal level, because my youngest daughter came out of those hospitalizations finally stabilized; since then, instead of the rage and wild mood swings that characterized her bipolar condition, she has been calm, happy and outside of the occasional teenage angst, normal. My other two children are both at university, one set to graduate in the spring with a degree in psychology; both are working nearly full time and seem content. Both are in long term relationships. My wife and I celebrated 32 years of marriage back in June.
And to my surprise, I have discovered that I don’t mind serving my local church as their substitute pastor.On the world stage, the actual number of conflicts is down from where it used to be even a decade ago. More nations today live in freedom than they did twenty years ago. We continue to see startling and wonderful innovations in technology and medicine. All the yelling and complaining we read in the newspapers and view on television, all the denunciations of the members of one political party against the other, remind us that we still enjoy the blessings of liberty and vibrant democracy.
Having an annual day set aside to offer thanksgiving is useful. It gives us the opportunity to think about our year, and to place its events in perspective: to do as the song says, “count our blessings.” Sometimes that is easy. Other times, not so much. Even a bad year—a really, monumentally horrible year—has things in it to be grateful for. If nothing else, we can be thankful just for surviving.