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Thanksgiving a time to stress positives

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday; it's also one of my favorites. It has a traditionally upbeat message, is long enough to get friends and family together and healthy eating gets a pass for the day.

The most positive part of this holiday is the message. It essentially says, regardless of how difficult things may be or have been, see the positive things in our lives and recognize those things for which we should be thankful.

We Americans have generally become used to the good life. Many interpret happiness as meaning that all is going well and if it isn't, then we have little or nothing for which to be thankful. That's not reality. So at Thanksgiving time, let's stop to recognize some things for which we can say we are thankful.

First, we live in America; give thanks for that. Sure, our nation isn't without blemishes and need for improvement, but if people are unhappy living in this wonderful country, they can work to improve it or they are free to move to whatever country will have them. Illegal immigrants are swimming across rivers, stowing away in ships and selling their every possession to get into the United States because of the opportunities and freedoms found here.

Despite our vast political differences, we selected our president and other elected officials at the ballot box. Give thanks for that; we didn't resort to AK-47s and violence as so many other countries recently touting "democracy" have done.

We have rapid access to medical care. Not all Americans have had health insurance, but we don't let critically ill people die. Emergency rooms treat those in crisis. They also take care of those who lack health insurance, although this is a very poor use of resources.

Our nation embraces freedom of religion; people are free to worship how and where they will. A great variety of churches, synagogues and mosques exist throughout our nation and we respect the rights of those who do not choose to affiliate with a religious organization.

Our educational system is good and open to all. Of course, it could use improvements, but all children regardless of economic status, race or gender can attend school. We do not shoot teenage girls in the head and threaten them with death for advocating education for females, as some people in Afghanistan have done.

Most of us have someplace to live where we are comfortable and protected from the elements. While many people lost their homes during the "mortgage meltdown," and many on the East Coast were made homeless by the recent monster storm, the great majority of Americans live in places where they have electricity, drinkable water and roads to connect them to other places.

We have family and friends for fun and support. While many families have conflicts among kin and some friends come and go, most of us have people who mean much to us and are there for us in really good and truly dreadful times.

Because most of us will encounter bumps along the road of life, there are groups who care and try to alleviate tough times for those facing them. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, community missions, religious organizations and others respond when people are down on their luck or disasters strike.

So on Thanksgiving Day, enjoy the food, football, friends and family. But Thanksgiving has a message. It's a fine day to identify things for which we are thankful.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist, a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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