Today, we as a nation set apart a time specifically for giving thanks, a day for looking back upon the gifts of the past year and reflecting on all the good that we have borne witness to. Rooted in our country’s harsh Puritan heritage and made official in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln in the midst of our worst trial as a nation, the holiday is more than just a time to gather with family and friends and loosen our belts a notch or two.
Our country’s annual ritual of self-reflection and corporate gratitude offers a welcome and needed opportunity to step back from the daily frustrations of life and wonder at the amazing gifts we have enjoyed and which we too often take for granted.
We so often carp and complain and pester and protest that giving thanks has become too rare an occurrence for many of us. There’s no question that we have been through much to drag down our spirits these past few years. Our nation fell into a chasm of economic turmoil, and for a seemingly interminable time it felt as though we would never reach the bottom. Jobs are still all too rare, and for too many of us, our homes – the vessels in which we placed our hopes, our savings and our memories – have been taken away or put at risk by those we trusted to help us. Our national politics are as divisive and fear-inducing as ever, a place where rumor and half-truth have often replace service and integrity.
But even in a weary winter of frustration and worry, hope and beauty survives. And we approach the end of this year with much to be grateful for, both as a nation and as a community.
We have just completed yet another round of elections that prove our democratic republic still works, an achievement always worth celebrating. Rare is the civilization that has put so much faith and trust in its citizens, and we count ourselves enormously lucky to live in the time and place that we do. Troops continue to return home as the long war in Afghanistan winds down, and many will have the chance to celebrate this holiday with loved ones for the first time in recent years.
While too many people are still looking for work, more are finding it, and we’ve seen our national, state and county unemployment rates fall from the levels they were at last year. We’ve also received glad tidings of improved housing numbers, with more new homes being constructed and more previously owned homes finding buyers.
Our community continues to show its care and concern for the less fortunate among us, through remarkable outpourings of volunteer help, the expansion of laudable programs and a devotion to treating everyone in our community with respect and love that often simply leaves us in awe.
And even as we fret, many of our local businesses are growing, and tourists are returning to our shores. The summer season saw only modest growth this past year, but the shoulder seasons, particularly spring, posted large gains over the previous year. Plans are in place to continue this growth. Dedicated workers at the local chambers of commerce, business development organizations and city halls across the Strand spend their days trying to improve the lot for all of us, work for which we tender our thanks all too infrequently.
So much in front of us is worthy of our thanks. We live near the ocean, in friendly communities built on helping neighbors, with schools that are the envy of much of the rest of the state, colleges that continue to grow and educate the next generation. Another hurricane season has come and gone without grave damage to our homes and businesses. Giving thanks for the avoidance of a calamity that’s outside our power to prevent is surely in order.
Tomorrow we will return to our debate and discussion of the very real issues facing our state and area. Our lives will continue and we will undoubtedly find plenty we don’t like. On this day, we choose instead to focus on all that we have been given, and we offer our humble thanks to the people, the nation and the greater power that makes it all possible.