"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
On this eve of the day Americans set aside each year to offer thanks and gratitude for our many blessings, I want to pause and offer a few thoughts.
Our country, and indeed, the world, is embroiled in a fight against the evils known as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda. These shadowy organizations pose a major threat to the lives and safety of millions of people around the world. They have no conscience, they show no mercy in their campaign to subject the world to their corrupt version of Islam. Quite simply, they must be stopped. I am grateful that unlike the people of France, Libya, Nigeria, Tunisia and other countries, we have largely been spared from their horrors.
And we who live in the safety of this great nation -- despite ongoing threats from those who would do us harm -- have so much for which to be thankful. Let's start with our first responders -- police, firefighters, EMTS and other medical personnel -- who give up time with family to serve those who need help regardless of the day or time.
I am grateful for the members of our military, especially those far from home and in foreign lands, and for the family members left behind to face yet another holiday without their loved ones.
I am grateful for those among us who continue to raise their voices and fight the good fight to save and protect the planet from those who see it only as something to be exploited. Countless individuals and organizations in the U.S. and around the world fight each day to stop pollution, trophy hunting, killing contests and the killing of elephants and rhinoceros for their ivory and tusks. Others fight to prevent Congress from selling our public lands to the highest bidder for mining, drilling or clear-cutting of our forests.
I am grateful as well for those who work tirelessly to save domestic animals from abuse and neglect, and for those dedicated souls who work to safeguard the most vulnerable among us -- the children and elderly. Our system may not be perfect, and far too many fall through the cracks, but we would be so much worse without it.
Think of those who serve hot meals to the hungry and homeless, who provide counseling and warm clothes and a safe place to sleep to those who have none. And be grateful that we are blessed with so many selfless people.
I also am saddened that Thanksgiving is becoming little more than just the prelude to a season of frenzied shopping and overspending in search of 'the perfect gift.' We need to save the shopping until after Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my daughter, at almost 22 years old, recognizes the difference between needs and wants. I have bought her a couple of things for Christmas -- things she can use -- and will give her some money to help with her bills. But long gone are the days when she wanted countless things she didn't need.
I am so very grateful that after years of struggling to find herself and her place in the world, and of struggling with lack of self-esteem, she now is a graduate of cosmetology school, she has a good job in a local salon, and she is in a committed relationship with a very nice young man. Coming from a childhood in Russia filled with abuse, neglect and rejection, she now is able to both give and accept love, and to realize that she deserves to be happy.
So however you will spend this most American of holidays, I hope it will be filled with true gratitude for all your blessings. And please don't forget those not as blessed.