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An American’s Thanksgiving

"In everything, give thanks"

‘Tis the season for counting our blessings. And we also think back on the history of Thanksgiving in America. Those early celebrants, whether in Virgina or Massachusetts, weren’t just thanking the Christian God for bounty.

In fact, there were Native Americans there, thus beginning the melting pot that would be this nation. There were religious differences and even a few witch trials in front of us, and one can argue that we were within sight of the beginnings of the slavery, civil war, and racial tensions.

Still, here we are, all these years (almost 400 of them) later. Perhaps grateful hearts do bear fruit despite a world of trouble, after all. And perhaps all evidence to the contrary (those colonists must have been terrified of starving or freezing that winter), there is bounty all around us unseen, if we’ll only embrace it.

And so it is in 2008. I’d have to write all night to list the problems we face. Heck, it’s going to take some time to list my personal ones! The economy is in a mess; radical Islam is on a collision course with Western civilization; natural resources face serious scarcity issues; our border leaks like a sieve; we are giving the nuclear football to an untested and untried, albeit charismatic, leader; the planet is plagued by war and famine and generally criminal grumpiness on an unprecedented scale; my roof still isn’t fixed from Hurricane Ike; and the Houston Texans are having yet another losing season.

Still, tonight I thank God that I was born in the United States of America. A friend of mine once said, “I don’t play the lottery because I’ve already won it. I was born here!” Amen, brother.

Problems notwithstanding, this is the land of opportunity, the shining city on the hill, and the place everyone on the planet seems to want to get to! My fellow Americans make me proud over and over at the way we turn our problems into opportunities.

I am thankful for the huge leaps in the ability to travel and communicate that have taken place in my lifetime. I hate airports as much as the next person, and I cuss at my cell phone at least once a day. But without them, I’d never have been able to go the places I’ve been, to stay in constant touch with family and friends thousands of miles away, to have my own business, and to see the world.

The first time I flew from my birthplace on the East Coast to the West Coast, I remember looking out the airplane window somewhere over New Mexico and marveling. I bet my great-grandparents never went more than a few hundred miles from home. Yet here I was, at the time a single young woman, who in a matter of hours would traverse a continent. It’s a miracle, and one I am grateful for every day of my life.

I’m extremely grateful for the Internet. It has been the single element that’s wrought the most change in my life, opening up my world, and providing me with a fertile field in which to make a living.

I had a lovely chat on the telephone today with a business associate (who has become a good friend) in England. It wasn’t that long ago that our even meeting in this lifetime wouldn’t have been possible. I am so thankful to have met people from all over the world, to have made friends of many of them, and to be able to do things like plan trips to see them, to ring them up for a chat, and to email them about the weather.

I am even thankful for economic hard times, because they force us to regroup, rethink, look for fresh opportunities, and quit being so dang smug. We are compelled to find the things that work, to stop wasting time and money on the things that don’t, and to view all situations as possibilities for those bold enough to seize the initiative. And we are lucky and blessed to live in a place and a time where this is a possibility.

We live in a nation of laws, roads, schools, and libraries. We call 911 and police and fire departments show up to help us. Our local grocery stores are overflowing with enough food and diversity thereof to feed many Third World countries for a year. Even those of us who drive old beater autos would be the envy of most people on an island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

I am thankful to live in the best time in history to be alive and healthy. Our medical system works miracles every day, every hour, every minute. We have the technology to go to the Moon, and maybe even Mars before I die; yet we can also go back and live off the land if we have to; such is the bounty of this nation.

I am thankful for having been born in Richmond, Virginia. I grew up with rich history all around me, and I am grateful that my parents made sure I was steeped in it. It instilled in me a love of liberty (thank you, Patrick Henry), a pride in learning and thought (thank you, Thomas Jefferson), a sense of responsibility and duty (thank you, George Washington), and a weird penchant for lost causes (thank you, Robert E Lee). Even the ugly side that I saw, the legacy of slavery, gave me a perspective that enriched my life.

I am thankful to now live in the great state of Texas! I love the energy here, the “can do” attitude, the fresh ideas, the ability to reinvent oneself, and the meritocracy of ability and hard work I see all around me. I am especially grateful for the examples of my Mexican and Vietnamese friends, whose work ethic and love of America put many of us native-borns to shame.

I thank God for my dear friends who are taking me in tomorrow and filling me with the bounty of their table. I thank God for my dear family in Virginia; I love y’all more than words can say, and I thank you for the freedom you’ve give me to go “be me” when it came my time to go do that.

And tomorrow, as the football games play and the cooking smells entice me, I will be thinking about all this and more, and giving thanks to my merciful Father for having placed me in this mighty nation at this place and time in history.

The root of all my thanksgiving is the United States of America; the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the platform of equality that I’ve enjoyed; the warmth and miraculous ingenuity of the American people; and our ability to embrace challenges and spin straw into gold.

God bless you all, and God bless America.

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