Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Thanksgiving — Think Thankfully

11/19/08 The Chatterbox Betty Kaiser I grew up in a count your blessings era. Society stressed that if you had a roof over your head and food in your belly, you were rich. If you didn’t like your dinner your parents were always quick to remind you that “children were starving in China.” This concept of starving children was my introduction into how to put life’s problems into perspective. I may have been hungry but kids in other places were starving. I passed this attitude of gratitude philosophy onto my own children. At suppertime, if bickering and complaining started, we all had to dig deep and come up with something good that had happened that day — and the participants included mom and dad. After an attitude adjustment everyone was always in a better frame of mind. Well, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if you’ve been grumpy, it’s time to adjust your attitude. Thanksgiving is a simple holiday. There’s minimal shopping to do; no gifts to wrap, no one to impress. It’s just you, the family, a turkey and an attitude of gratitude. I am not, however, a clueless Pollyanna. It is not always possible to be grateful in the same way every year. Some years gratitude is a dance of joy. Some years it’s a song. Other years it is simply a sigh of relief. If you are newly divorced or widowed; sick or disabled; homeless or unemployed — being deeply thankful might be a stretch. Perhaps you’re lonely and afraid as you adjust to a new way of life. Just getting up in the morning and staying sane from day to day is an accomplishment to be proud of. Economically, this year has been a disaster for nearly everyone. The Dow continues down a slippery slope. World markets are drained. IRA and 401K balances are disappearing. Jobless claims are at record highs and foreclosure rates are off the charts. “Recession” is the word of the day. Occasionally someone dares to say “depression.” Financially, at least on the surface, there’s not much to be thankful for. Most families have been touched by illness in some form. Many of us have loved ones who are suffering through a medical crisis; some can’t afford medication. Others of us have lost friends of a lifetime and we miss them deeply. Perhaps you personally are worn down with the suffering inflicted by cancer and struggling to get through the chemotherapy and radiation. It’s a tough time. So let’s face it, bad things are happening to good people. That’s a given. Good times and bad are the way of the world. The highs and lows of life are a roller coaster. But even when times are darkest, life goes on and it is in life that we find perspective. During the Dow’s downward spiral, when its demise seemed to be the only news that the media deemed fit to report, life went on: babies were born, children went to school and adults went to work. Hospitals were open, busses ran their routes, airlines flew, sanitation systems worked, and we elected a new president — life went on. The election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States was the only thing to knock financial gloom and doom out of the headlines. In a break from the norm, his decisive victory seemed to bring joy to the entire world not just his supporters. As messages of congratulations poured into the president-elect, I noticed that most were very complimentary not only of the candidate but of the citizens that elected him. Suddenly we Americans weren't so bad after all. Many countries, of course, were looking forward to “improved working relationships” i.e. political favors. But my favorite congratulatory letter was from the British Virgin Islands who offered the Obama family a holiday — as guests of the government! Strangely, Obama’s election really didn’t seem to even bother his Republican opposition too much. Thanks to a gracious speech by his opponent John McCain, civility seems to have prevailed. Election civility is not the norm in all countries. In fact, election violence is to be expected and considered somewhat normal, as we have seen in the countries of Algeria, Nepal, Kashmir and Macedonia. We should be immensely heartened by the usually well-mannered contestants who compete in our free and fair elections. Perhaps if we have no other reason to be grateful this season, we can be thankful for our (largely) peaceful democratic process. Yes, we have our warts and foibles, but we’re better than most in the world’s electoral process. Thanks-giving? It’s often a matter of perspective and perseverance. Life is ever changing. Some years the cup is full. Other years it seems empty. If you are suffering this year, find something to be thankful for —anything! — And hang in there. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a lifelong process. It isn’t easy but it will keep you sane during the tough times. Besides, being thankful on Thanksgiving Day is as traditional as turkey and pumpkin pie! P.S. Here’s a few ideas to jumpstart a thankful conversation around the Thanksgiving table: a nice warm house, a loving family, loyal friends, plentiful food, change in your pocket for a candy bar, a good book, a nice teacher, laughter, a compliment, a warm, cuddly pet. It’s your choice. The sky is the limit. Good luck!
Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.

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