What is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

It's a matter of perspective

The crisis on Wall Street seems somehow distant and is simultaneously attacking my wallet. Families are facing foreclosure and wondering how different the Thanksgiving holiday, let alone December holidays, will look this year. What in the world do we have to be thankful for?

To those who question reasons for Thanksgiving, I issue a challenge: Gather some perspective. Set your superficial worries aside, your fears that the wealth you’ve amassed will be less wealthy, your concerns that everyone will only get two helpings of turkey instead of the traditional gluttony. Consider, for just a moment, what you have.

If you have a home, you are more fortunate than many people around the world. . No, I’m not talking about a 3,000 square-foot home with four bedrooms, three baths, and custom kitchen cabinets. I’m talking about a place to sleep that shelters you from the cold and rain. To most of the world, that is the life of luxury.

Yes, America’s economy is tanking. People are freaking out. But are we concerned that we won’t live through the week? Are we worried that empty bellies will last for days, or rather that we won’t live the extravagant lives to which we’ve grown accustomed? For most of us, the desire for more is all that drives our inability to find gratitude for the treasures that have already been amassed.

I do not mean to diminish real challenges that are facing American families everywhere as they struggle to navigate a potentially devastating financial crisis. But allow me to blow your mind: Money is not everything.

If you live in America, including the America in financial crisis, you are among the wealthiest people in the world. Combine that fact with the food, in some quantity, that will fill your stomach tonight. With the clothes that keep you warm. With the shelter protecting your children. With the family and friends that comprise our greatest riches.

Yes, there is cause to be thankful. There is cause to be overjoyed. Because as Americans, even in financial crisis, we remain in a position of wealth. Even more importantly, going into the holiday season, we remain in a position to give.

We should be grateful for the blessings we have. And we should express that gratitude, that abundance, in the way the first Thanksgiving was modeled: by giving to the hungry, by helping the homeless or those new to our shores, by teaching others how to attain what we have attained.

— Julie Zykan

For one day, drop the cynicism

Right now the world is a scary place. The economy is horrible, the country is at war and pollution and global warming threaten future generations. Right now it’s easy to be cynical and curse the world you feel like you have no control over. But what does that accomplish? Nothing. If you really take a close look at your life, there is certainly something that you are thankful for. There is certainly something that gets you out of bed in the morning. There is certainly something you couldn’t do without. These are things we as a people need to focus on.

As Thanksgiving approaches it’s time to dig down deep, brush off your inner Grinch or Scrooge and really think about what you’re thankful for. It’s not the same for everyone. It could be friends, family, a significant other, pet, sports team or movie. It’s not really important what it is. What’s important is that even if it’s just for a second that one thing makes you forget about the rest of the world and feel good. That is what’s important. And there’s one day in a year that allows us to do that: Thanksgiving.

I could go on and on about the problems with the war or the economy or the criminal justice system, which I often do. But a funny thing happens on the last Thursday of November: I don’t. When I'm with my family (mom, dad and brother), my neighbors and loads of delicious food, I don’t feel the need to complain. Instead, I’m able to really examine how lucky I am. How lucky I am to have a veritable feast when kids are starving in Africa. How lucky I am to have a nice, heated four-bedroom house when so many call the street home. How lucky I am to have friends and family that support me and are genuinely interested in what I’m doing when many have no one. Maybe those things aren’t what you’re thankful for, but there must be something. Just one thing. But that’s all you need.

Sure, the world isn’t perfect, but it’s never going to be. If you keep dwelling on what’s wrong instead of right and what you don’t have instead of have, you’ll never be happy. But if you can take just one day to think about what you have and what makes your life worth living, you’ll feel a little bit better. If that’s not a reason to celebrate Thanksgiving, I don’t know what is.

— Burk Krohe

Thankful that Obama won the election

Why should I be thankful on Nov.27, 2008? Why, when I barely have $100 in my checking account? Why should I be thankful when I’m only able to spend two days out of my Thanksgiving break to spend with my family? Why should I be thankful for Thanksgiving when I have to be at work at 5 a.m. the following day to sell bras and panties to thousands of people?

Yes, I’m thankful for my education, for the fact that I have opportunities to continue with my education past a bachelor's, the roof over my head, the measly-paying job I have, the fact that my parents still continue to pay my rent and tuition — the list goes on. Yes, I’m thankful for all those things, but those are given. If you’re not thankful for that, then you’re a jerk.

It seems what I’m thankful for is more of the excited anticipation I’m still feeling from the election. I still smile when I hear, “President-elect Obama.” I still eagerly click through slideshows on Huffington Post of Obama and the Secret Service, of Obama dropping off his kids, of people's reactions around the world to his election. Yes, yes, I know he’s a politician who will make mistakes and he’s not perfect, but I have until Jan. 20 to feel hopeful before the reality sets in. I’m thankful for this feeling that my side won this time around. I’m thankful that, for once since I was a teenager and began to become aware of the world around me, the leader of my country will have mentalities similar to my own.

I’m thankful for this feeling — it’s almost like giddiness — of waiting for Jan. 20 to come. My homepage is a countdown to Obama’s inauguration.

Sure, he’ll probably disappoint and not keep all of his promises, but I don’t care about that right now. So what? Let me have these days. For now, I’m going to enjoy this feeling and I’m going to be thankful for it.

— Lauren Titterington

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