An Unconventional Thanksgiving Message

“Branches in the Wind & Rain,” (c) 2014. Canon T3i, 50mm Super Takumar lens, f1.4, 1/240, ISO 100.

Hi friends,

This year has brought some joys and some disappointments. The promise of nursing school was dashed, for now, when I did not get the required financial aid (despite many generous gifts from friends and fans). That dream may have its day in 2015, when I will again attempt to take classes in preparation for the CEIN program at UConn. The wonderful folks at The Clergy project have offered me a stipend that gives that dream some credibility, and with a little luck I will secure more financial aid elsewhere. I’m certainly not ready to let that goal go – not yet.

Financial troubles and a lack of career direction have been tough, but a broader view of the world affords the following conclusion: it’s been a difficult year for many of us. We may find it hard to cultivate much gratitude tomorrow, but I’d like to offer a bit of perspective that might refresh your optimism.

In the past 60 minutes, about 6316 people died worldwide. Roughly 150,000 people die each day, from things as routine and predictable as heart disease to horrors like murder and war.

I’m grateful that I wasn’t one of them. That’s what instills gratitude in me this Thanksgiving. Ultimately, any day that I find myself above ground is an opportunity to observe, to attempt something new, to do what little I can to make the world a fractionally better place. It’s a luxury those 6316 people do not have, and will never have it again. Starting a day alive is a win no matter what else happens.

Like most of us in North America, I fall demographically somewhere in the third standard deviation in a normal distribution curve of economic prosperity and stability. I don’t wake up wondering if a rape gang is going to kill me and my family today. I don’t have to ask myself if I can obtain enough food or potable water to survive. In other words, when the universe rolled the dice I ended up being pretty lucky, all things considered. Others – many others – did not fare so well.

If you’re reading this, you’re better off than they are. That’s worth a mote of gratitude, isn’t it?

Begin with that foundation, and it’s not so hard to recognize other reasons to be thankful. It’s things like spending time with my brilliant daughter, the work and I do and the drive that creates it, and the consumption of what the best of humankind has to offer (good music, fine wine, great literature) that make me happy.  I take these small delights and amplify them against the gloom, and so it’s not all that hard to say, in Kurt Vonnegut’s words, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all whom you love.

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