The joy of giv­ing thanks

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Jay Am­brose


— Amer­ica’s a mess.

Great gobs of peo­ple don’t trust those most in charge, and those most in charge do not trust great gobs of peo­ple. We have a much-feared pres­i­dent-elect and a muchcursed, de­feated op­po­nent. It’s not just the pop­u­la­tion deeply di­vided over pol­i­tics; many fam­i­lies are, too, and there are not a few other is­sues.

Let’s men­tion, for in­stance, ed­u­ca­tion, taxes, wel­fare, reg­u­la­tions, big­otry from all sides and the econ­omy. Too many news out­lets are seen as bi­ased. Fam­i­lies are ev­er­more fa­ther­less. Racial ten­sions are the high­est in decades. Crime has been ris­ing again. Scoff­ing sec­u­lar­ism seems in­creas­ingly to be dis­plac­ing any sense of sanc­tity.

What’s more, the world is rip­ping it­self apart, ter­ror­ism keeps bar­ing its bar­bar­ian fangs and war keeps de­stroy­ing lives.

So isn’t it time to be thank­ful, and not least of all, for Thanks­giv­ing?

Yes, it is, be­cause for ev­ery­thing wrong, not only are there pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, but hun­dreds of things that are right. And here is what comes from re­flect­ing on what’s right, for be­ing grate­ful, for say­ing thanks, thanks, thanks. Higher spir­its. Greater hap­pi­ness. Even joy. More hope. More en­ergy to fix what needs fix­ing.

For wise in­struc­tion on this, look to Abra­ham Lin­coln, who pro­claimed Thanks­giv­ing a na­tional hol­i­day in 1863 dur­ing a mer­ci­less, bloody Civil War he re­ferred to as be­ing “of un­equaled mag­ni­tude and sever­ity.” Lives had been lost “in the camp, the siege and the bat­tle­field” and wealth had been di­verted from “peace­ful in­dus­try,” he said. But there was more to think about.

There were “the bless­ings of fruit­ful fields and health­ful skies.” The ne­ces­si­ties of de­fense had not “ar­rested the plow, the shut­tle, or the ship; the ax has en­larged the borders of our set­tle­ments, and the mines ... have yielded even more abun­dantly than be­fore.” Pop­u­la­tion was still in­creas­ing. Or­der and har­mony ex­isted ev­ery­place “ex­cept in the the­ater of mil­i­tary con­flict.”

And the coun­try, con­scious of “aug­mented strength and vigor” can ex- pect these as­sets to con­tinue “with a large in­crease in free­dom,” he wrote.

He spoke of ac­knowl­edg­ing God as the sources of these gifts. He said the peo­ple should ask God to care for the suf­fer­ing, for an end to the war, for “a heal­ing of wounds,” and a re­turn of “tran­quil­ity and union.”

The best did not come in a minute, but mostly it came, and in­dus­tri­al­ism took off, bring­ing tough is­sues but won­ders, too. Slav­ery was ended.

What Amer­i­cans to­day need to re­mem­ber is that we are still a great na­tion — “the last, best hope for mankind,” as Lin­coln put it. Our sys­tem of con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights, checks and bal­ances, rule of law, and elec­tions af­fords safe­guards against pos­si­bil­i­ties now caus­ing so much worry.

Peo­ple are also out there work­ing on all of our prob­lems, and mean­while, we have ma­te­rial ad­van­tages once un­dreamed of. On racial is­sues, we shall over­come, as we have in the past.

Ow­ing to glob­al­iza­tion and free mar­kets, it might be added, the world is ever bet­ter off. As the writer Matt Ridley has pointed out, mea­sures taken in 2005 showed that the av­er­age per­son on this earth was “earn­ing nearly three times as much money (cor­rected for in­fla­tion), ate one-third more calo­ries of food, buried one-third as many of her chil­dren and could ex­pect to live one-third longer” than just half a cen­tury ear­lier

And yes, we still have the glory of sun­sets. My breath is taken away al­most daily. We in­deed have an abun­dance of beauty and we have our friends. We have our dear, dear fam­i­lies, and what is greater than get­ting to­gether with each other on Thanks­giv­ing?

Yes, it’s true that an ABC News sur­vey shows more than a third of Amer­i­cans are wor­ry­ing about ar­gu­ments be­tween brothers, sis­ters, mom, dad and oth­ers be­cause of dif­fer­ent views about a re­cent fist­fight of an elec­tion. Here is a thought. Fo­cus on love, a hu­man ca­pac­ity for which we should also be grate­ful.

Jay Am­brose is an colum­nist for Tribune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may email him at speak­to­

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