David Cox | Count those blessings!

Thanksgiving 2008 could not come at a better time.
With the hubbub of the elections subsiding, one and all are taking new stock of what enormous problems incoming officials face: Rising unemployment. Citibank laying off 50,000 people — that’s lots more than everyone in our entire Lex/Rockbridge/BV region, including students who haven’t even been employed yet. Big Three’s potentates flew to Washington for a handout, each in corporate jets — not the smartest move when pleading for $25 billion.

Meanwhile the Commonwealth of Virginia is facing a $3+ billion shortfall, so localities like ours will surely be pinched.

Some say the worst hasn’t even hit Main Street yet.

And, oh yeah, we have a couple of wars to fight. And a crisis in our educational systems. And foreclosures galore.

Some might be tempted to flee to Europe or Canada or Mexico. It’s bad there too.

Some might suggest, with Garrison Keillor and “ads” on “Prairie Home Companion,” a healthy dose of catsup, with its soothing mellowing agents.

I have an easier idea: Celebrate Thanksgiving.

Whether Thanksgiving originated in Virginia or Massachusetts, it surely began in a time of want. Those first settlers, in Jamestown and Plymouth alike, had a tough start. Many died. Many more went hungry. Yet, amid the death, disease, and disasters, they could find things for which to give thanks, even if it be some corn or turkeys or oysters. If anything, their very neediness made them the more acutely aware of their blessings.

So it was, at about the same time, for a German pastor named Martin Rinckart. He lived during the Thirty Years War, so called because it did indeed last nearly four times longer than our Iraqi or Vietnamese conflicts. He ministered in a village with the misfortune of being located where armies marched. Three times, those armies pillaged his town. Yet amidst all the devastation, he could write the hymn many will sing on Thursday: “Now thank we all our God.”

In 2008, there may be quantitatively less for which to be thankful: a smaller bird, fewer dishes, facing a Christmas in which Santa may not be as generous as in earlier years. Houses may be cooler, or downright cold. Family jobs may be on the line or, worse, already lost. Certainly topics abound to worry about, and rightly so.

But put these all in perspective by naming some thanks: for family and friends, for health, for a roof above the head, for knowing where the next meal is coming from, for a car or bicycle by the door and even for indoor plumbing, for the chance to vote for leaders, for the ability to worship God freely and to speak one’s mind. If you have any, or even more all of these, by the standards of history and even of our world today, you are very blessed indeed.

Tough times, in other words, help to reopen our eyes to what truly matters in life, and with it, how fortunate we are.

Hence my simple suggestion: This week, don’t brood over your problems: they are no doubt real and no one can forget them; but they’ll be there next week. For now, look around, and count your blessings. You’ll feel better. What’s more, you’ll put whatever ails you into the wider context of what great good you have received already—with more to come.

As a dear, late friend of mine used to say, all year ’round, Happy Turkey.

 

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PS: One thing to do to help others while helping ourselves is to support our local businesses. Like Christopher’s. This marvelous little restaurant at 4 East Washington Street in downtown Lexington is offering a FREE tasting of wines paired with selected foods, Mondays and Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. Think about staying for supper!

 

– Column by David Cox

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