We have so very much to be grateful for

We have so very much to be grateful for

While you’re out shopping this weekend, taking advantage of all those sales, up at 2 a.m. to get in line to get a $200 mammoth television, you’re likely eating on the fly.

I wonder how many leftovers from the Thanksgiving feast just go bad in the refrigerator because they’ve been abandoned for a quick sandwich or some tacos.

I’m certainly not going to suggest you pack up turkey sandwiches for your foray because the last time I thought that far ahead on any given day was sometime in the last century. But if you’re the “pack up a lunch to take” kind of person, it isn’t a bad idea.

If you bought a turkey of the right size to feed the family, you shouldn’t have much left, especially if you sent every scrap possible home with them in little baggies after dinner. But there’s always sandwiches, soup, pot pie and chowder to use up whatever didn’t get eaten.

Having to make such considerations — what to eat when we’re shopping, what to do with the remaining abundance when we’ve had our fill of it — should point to something obvious about being alive in the United States in the 21st century: We’re awfully fortunate, and we have so very much for which to be thankful but take for granted.

I recently saw a video produced by a church in the south that made this point clearly and in a fun way. It’s Christmas morning, and a family wakes to find themselves bundled in gift wrap. They break through the paper and are thrilled to be alive for another day.

All the things we fail to notice in our lives but are remarkable gifts are wrapped the same way — the coffee, the hot shower, the car — and they greet each thing as though it were an amazing Christmas gift, which, of course, it is.

Marie Antoinette had servants to help her get dressed and fetch anything she needed. George Washington had hundreds of acres of farmland and a mansion with a spectacular view.

If you compare your own comforts to those at the top of western society for hundreds of years, you come out on top, even if you’re struggling and live paycheck to paycheck. You likely have a car enabling you to be mobile and visit fairly distant family without too much trouble. Even if travel is a problem, you probably have some kind of device in your pocket or on your coffee table enabling you to visit by video.

You get to use indoor plumbing and drink safe water. And even though many of us live with the daily worry of not having health insurance that grants access to it, we can be grateful that medicine has eradicated or easily cured many of the diseases that killed off our ancestors, rich and poor, by the millions.

There is evidence that, just as Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Taken further, studies suggest the act of being consciously grateful, of noting the gifts in your life with gratitude, can improve overall outlook and therefore health.

It is very easy, in our time, to look at all the amazing things we see online, where we can compare our own material lives to others moment by moment, and feel ourselves hanging by the short end of the stick. But I would suggest that’s a trap you can avoid.

Everyone shows off their best shiny on social media (though I’m really surprised at how readily we overshare our problems), and you don’t normally see their jumbled, smelly garage, the dog hair clusters under the bed or the fight they had with their spouse the night before.

Everyone has problems, and if everyone in town could dump all their problems into one giant pile to choose better ones, you would almost certainly take your own back once you see how bad they can be for others.

It’s a season of thanksgiving, and that’s more than words; it’s a wake-up. You and I have so very much to be grateful for, every day, all around us. Don’t miss those beautifully wrapped presents.

And when you get back from shopping, here’s another of life’s greatest gifts — real Irish coffee.

1 cup freshly brewed coffee

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1.5 ounces Irish whiskey

Blob of lightly whipped heavy cream

Pour the coffee into a warmed glass mug. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved, add whiskey, then gently float cream on top. Serve hot.

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