Editor’s note: This column from deputy opinions editor Robin Beres was originally published in November 2009.
The economy is sputtering. Congress is spending us into a black hole — make that a red hole — from which we might never crawl out. Americans continue to worry over the mounting job losses despite the Obama administration’s assurances that we are no longer losing them quite as fast.
This has been a grim year — which is exactly what I was complaining about to my husband one recent morning. He listened patiently to the grousing and waited as I finished my tirade with: “And to top it off, the Marines won’t let John leave a 50-mile radius of Camp Lejeune. I can’t even have my family together for Thanksgiving. There’s just not that much to be thankful for this year!”
I waited for a nod of commiseration. But his response was far better — a verbal kick in the pants. “Nothing to be thankful for? How about the fact that you’re alive and our family is healthy? How about being thankful we have a roof over our head and food on our table?”
Ouch! As usual, he’s exactly right. There is much to be thankful for. One tends to get so wrapped up in the grisly minutiae of politics, the economy and the latest dreary news, that the good things in life are overlooked.
Certainly, this year has seen much criticism of — and apologies for — the failings of our nation. Many Americans are wondering if perhaps old Uncle Sam ain’t quite what he used to be. How easy it is to lose sight of the fact that the greatness of this country doesn’t depend on the current occupant in the White House or what nonsensical laws get passed by the current Congress.
We forget what we should be thankful for. I wrote much of this column while flying over the American Heartland. At one point, below us sprawled the great state of Kansas. As far as the eye could see lay an immense patchwork of corn and wheat fields.
Those now-harvested fields are resting and the grains that were reaped are feeding and powering this country and many other nations.
At a Veterans Day Assembly I attended at Hermitage High School, the head of the Marine Corps JROTC program, CWO4 Mike Robinson, USMC (Ret.) related to the student body the story of a small boy who stood on the streets of Olangapo, Philippines, offering to entertain foreigners by biting off the heads of live birds for a nickel.
Gunner Robinson told the students that this “parlor trick” was the only way the child and his family could earn money to eat.
It’s a gruesome story — but one that puts things in perspective. Americans may be suffering, but no one is starving to death and no child need suffer horrors like that.
And, despite the economy, everywhere Americans are going about their daily lives. From the harvested fields of great farms that feed nations, to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, to the bustle of our cities, Americans are keeping America strong. In every city, every county and in far-off lands, our police officers, our firemen, our military and our border patrol are working hard to keep us safe. This great country works because of the people who live here and love her.
During my trip to Colorado, I met so many Americans just doing their jobs — doing them well and happily. That alone was something to be thankful for. I am very grateful that our skies are safe and, for the most part, air travel is a breeze.
I flew on six different flights and every one left and arrived on time without incident. I am thankful that everywhere, people were kind and respectful to the dozens of young men and women in uniform traveling through our airports.
Two of our sons are now in the military and all three of our boys are on the precipice of independence, and soon — too soon — having all of them home for Thanksgiving won’t be possible. But it’s going to happen this year.
John can’t come home, so we’re taking home to him. North Topsail Beach is a mere 30 miles from Camp Lejeune. We’re renting a house for a long weekend and having Thanksgiving there.
The poet, Wilbur D. Nesbit, wrote, “Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home.”
In our case home is finding a pathway to our son. It’s a win-win situation. We get a weekend at the beach and time to spend not only with John but with other young Marines as well.
So, I am most thankful that this year, our dinner table will include the entire family — plus some. Silver linings can be great things.
Robin Beres is deputy opinions editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org