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Giving Thanks in Lousy Times

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The year 2010 has not shaped up as a very good year. Unemployment is holding fairly steady at a dismal 9.6 percent, with tens of millions of Americans out of work. Many who are employed are earning less and working longer hours. Not unexpectedly, the negative ripple effect continues into the housing market. The wave of foreclosures has moved from the sub-prime loan market to engulf many prime mortgages, too. As we approach our national four-day holiday of Thanksgiving, you might be wondering: during this "Great Recession," as many are now calling it, what exactly is there to be thankful for?

I would suggest that even in the worst times, there is a long gratitude list we all need to make. Here is a part of mine:

Family

It is nearly impossible for me to believe, but my wife and I are now in our 50s. We're still together after 28 years of marriage, and I adore and admire her more today than the day I proposed. We have three children who continue to be the most wonderful gifts imaginable. Kids are full-time jobs. No matter what their ages, they continue to demand time, energy, money and commitment, but they pay back endless, intangible dividends. My wife and I are fortunate to still have both our parents. Even as adults, I find comfort in being able to talk with my mom and dad whenever I want. So when I am sitting at the kids' table on Thursday evening, longing to move up to that elusive main dining table, I'll be grateful that all the seats are filled, and I'll take in the din of silverware clanging on plates and the animated conversation and enjoy the fact that, for one day of the year, I can be with my entire family, and that's exactly where I am supposed to be.

Health

This year, my mom celebrates five years of life after receiving a liver transplant. While she has faced numerous challenges during her recovery, the fact that she is alive and still vibrant and happy is nothing short of a gift that I appreciate every day. Our 13-year-old son has battled a debilitating and horribly painful nerve injury for much of the past two years. He was first diagnosed two Thanksgivings ago, and this year we are especially grateful that he is once again healthy and back at school with his friends and enjoying a normal adolescence. Both are constant reminders for me to appreciate my health and the health of my friends and family every day, not just when it is threatened.

Faith

This is certainly a time when my own faith is being tested. Like many in this country, I am facing the toughest economic challenges in my lifetime, but I believe things can and will get better. Believing, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, is the antithesis of the adage "seeing is believing." But I refuse to give in or give up, and I remain determined to redouble my efforts both physically and spiritually. I have been given many opportunities and many gifts in my life. No matter how difficult things may seem, I am mindful that I still have so much to appreciate. It took me years to realize that neither success nor self-worth need, nor should, be defined by my bank statement, but rather by the relationships I have and the people I touch and those who touch me.

I invite you to take time this holiday to assess and appreciate your own life. Even in lousy times, we can and should put the thanks back into Thanksgiving.

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