“In every thing, give thanks ….”
That’s from the Bible, but I’m sure there are similar exhortations in other holy books, not to mention a raft of self-help books. A thankful attitude makes you healthier – really.
I suspect that was at least subconsciously understood by the ragtag group of settlers who gathered for what we now call the first Thanksgiving, nearly 400 years ago.
By today’s standards, they had next to nothing but hope. Nearly half of their group had perished during the previous winter from disease or starvation. If they had been put into what is now labeled low-income housing, they likely would have marveled at the luxury.
Yet they gave thanks.
Which is something that seems pretty counterintuitive these days. Yes, most of us will gather Thursday with friends and family, eat too much food and try to avoid talking about politics. But our minds will likely be on politics and the impending weekend orgy of shopping – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – that has already begun with all the “pre“ advertisements.
And too many of us will feel resentment, jealousy and envy that while we have “enough,” way too many people have more than we do. Even though being poor in America amounts to being rich in the large majority of the rest of the world.
I suppose we could say it’s not our fault for feeling this way – we could blame it on our “leaders” who regularly solicit our votes to keep them in power by encouraging us to be resentful of those who are better off than we are.
We are told that inequality is not the logical result of some people being smarter, more creative, more ambitious, perhaps luckier or perhaps even working harder than everybody else.
No, it is largely due to them stealing from the rest of us through not paying their “fair share” in taxes. Because if they were, they wouldn’t be so rich and we wouldn’t be so poor.
Vermont’s democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders gained considerable traction in a presidential campaign built on resentment of “millionaires and billionaires” and, of course, their “cronies.”
Add to all that the list of reasons I hear from time to time about how there’s not much for which to to be thankful. We’re destroying the environment. Climate change will destroy us. We don’t have free health care. We have to pay for college. There are too many guns. “Haters” still get to vote. There is not enough diversity. And have you noticed who is president?
But if we could stop resenting what somebody else has, turn off cable TV, walk away from our social media accounts for a while and instead focus on what we have, perhaps we could give some genuine thanks for the ways we are blessed.
As a few lonely observers have pointed out, poverty does exist in America, but it is defined differently and is not nearly the existential threat that it has been for all of human history.
The cheapest cars on the market today are safer and filled with vastly more conveniences than luxury cars from previous generations. When I occasionally ride the subway in and around Boston, just about everybody, no matter their economic circumstances, is carrying a smartphone that provides them with computing power and access to a world of information and convenience that was unimaginable even 25 years ago.
Yes, economic health is forever changing, with politicians demanding credit for good times and trying to dish off blame to the other party or the previous president for bad times.
But forget credit or blame. At the moment, things are good – not perfect, but very good. Just about everyone who is physically capable and wants a job can get one.
This is beyond good – it is amazing. We are blessed with abundance and security like no other people in any time or place.
So, give thanks. If you do, you will be happier. If you spend your time thinking about, and resenting, what somebody else has, you not only are unlikely to get it, but you will discover that it won’t make you happy anyway.
And that segues nicely into a personal note of thanks, and a farewell.
This is my last column for the CNHI newspaper group. Life and other work have made it difficult to do consistently. I also think it’s time to let other, younger voices have the floor.
I’m especially grateful to Bill Ketter, senior vice president of news for CNHI, who offered the chance to do this more than seven years ago, and to David Joyner, executive editor of The Eagle-Tribune, who has been a constant and unshakeable support for a conservative voice on the opinion pages. Not to mention catching and fixing my occasional garbled syntax or thinking.
Most of all I’m grateful to those of you who took the time to read, to engage and to be constructive critics. Yes, there are some who still think the best way to win an argument is not to argue but simply call somebody a name or lob a personal insult. But they are the minority. I’ve had some great arguments – in the best sense of the word – with readers who have been aggressive but also civil, thoughtful and willing to listen. I’ve tried to do the same, and I hope all of us have learned things along the way.
It has been a great ride through the always contentious but always fascinating marketplace of ideas. Thanks to all of you who helped make it so. And may we all pledge allegiance to, and give thanks for, the freedom to disagree. It is one of the main things that make this country the best place on earth to live.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org