"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
- Abraham Lincoln
The electricity had been turned off for nonpayment, but luckily Mom had gotten the meager meal heated first. By the dim light of candles, I could see my mother's strained face. For the first time in my young life, I noticed the dark areas under her eyes caused by crying.
As I silently watched the candles reflected in her glasses, I thought about how the past year had brought so many changes. My father had passed away the year before, and Mom was left with two young boys to raise on her own while clinging to every fragment of family life we had previously known. My oldest brother was serving in Korea, and two others were trying to work their way through college and stretching the family funds to the limit.
As I watched my mother carefully cut slices of canned turkey, the only kind we could afford, I was reminded of that point: that canned turkey, a few canned vegetables and a pumpkin pie donated by a coworker were the only Thanksgiving dinner Mom could pull together.
Sitting down after serving us all, she sat quietly for an extended moment; staring at her plate as if too embarrassed to look at her own family. Quietly, almost in a whisper, she stated that it was not much, but we should be thankful for what we had. Then she looked around the table with an optimistic smile and said, "Next year will be better. Let's eat!"
When I stare at current headlines, I can imagine my melancholy childhood memory replayed in homes across America. An avalanche of closing businesses and unemployment, coupled with failing credit markets and foreclosures, has the entire nation reeling under a tidal wave of anxiety. It makes one contemplate the therapeutic nature of this uniquely American holiday, and why we should give it more thought at this particular time.
When Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving for the nation, it was to bring hope to a land suffering the horrible effects of war; not just divided, but ripped into coarse fragments and left with open wounds waiting to be healed.
This year the American people, and the world, have been witness to the fact that although racial division has left a scar, the wound is finally healed. While I didn't support Barack Obama, I also realize his election is proof that our system of government not only works - it shines once again as a beacon of justice and liberty for the world. With that realization, other, equally important reasons for considering our blessings come to mind.
This country has the means of overcoming any national crises because of the vast intellectual resources and expertise available to us. America, due to our diverse culture, has the perpetual ability to seek out new ideas, innovative strategies and new perceptions to resolve our tribulations.
That same political system forces government to be responsive to the people and their concerns. Such a responsive government means that we have a compassionate system that takes care of even the most disenfranchised citizen.
As witness to that fact, consider that every candidate in this year's election has cited health care as a primary target for reform. Those promises made to democratic constituents must become reality, or the people will speak once again. If the next four years prove to be filled with only empty or broken promises, rest assured that there will be a new set of leaders at the end of this period.
Whatever changes might take place, the coming administration has an opportunity to open a bright and shining tunnel of hope - a pathway which, if properly attended and nurtured by our collective strengths, can lead to the greatest advancements our nation has seen.
From this historic moment, every child truly can dream and expect fulfillment of their aspirations. Therefore, this year let us be thankful not only of past accomplishments, but lay aside our fears and be joyful for the opportunities lying ahead. Let us echo the words of my wife Lisa's favorite character, and whisper to coming generations: "After all, tomorrow is another day."
Fostering such optimism will assure we have a Happy Thanksgiving this and every day, now and forever.
Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.
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