Under the Sun
Giving thanks shouldn’t be confined to one day
Around this time of year, government leaders send out messages about the holiday tomorrow, working language to evoke the warm and fuzzies.
"Family" and "compassion" are the preferred terms, adjusted to "ohana" and "aloha" if suitable to locale.
Shopworn quotes are dragged out to get across the "count your blessings" concept, even though they may not have originally addressed the occasion.
One newspaper published a passage from a commencement speech Oprah Winfrey gave years ago, in which she urged college students to "focus on what you have" rather than "on what you don't have." The advice sounded a bit tinny coming from a woman whose material desires are easily filled by her abundant wealth and who has attributed her driving ambition to wanting more.
The Oprahs of the world use whatever aptitude and skill they have to make their mark, regardless of whether the intent is altruistic and the celebrity and financial gain just a side benefit. Those who don't have what she has cannot be faulted for being envious, but if they look beyond the glitter, they'd see that her life isn't a breezy whirl. How can it be when every slip, every mistake, every lapse is blown up as large as her image, displayed for all to see? I'd bet that Oprah would be grateful if she could wander aimlessly through a Wal-Mart, anonymous in shorts, T-shirt and dirty sneakers.
In many ways, it is hard to count blessings in a vacuum, in the absence of comparison.
Recent reports from Iraq, for example, are remarkable in that the level of violence has decreased, at least in a few parts of Baghdad. Where earlier this year, there were scores of bombings a day, explosions have become infrequent in some areas. Bodies dumped in the streets, once counted in the dozens, have dwindled to just a few a day.
Had these numbers been applied to an American city, residents would be shocked and horrified. But for a handful of Iraqi citizens who like thousands of their fearful neighbors had abandoned their communities, the modicum of safety is enough. They are grateful to be able to return home despite the tenuous nature of security.
Though the wars are far from over, though the government will continue to send U.S. soldiers to fight there and in Afghanistan, though more lives will be lost in a manufactured conflict, I'm certain Americans also are grateful no matter how uncertain the lull. And truthfully, most don't need to be encouraged by government officials to demonstrate appreciation and compassion.
Many volunteer, contribute to charity or simply take the time to lend a hand to others amid the tumble of daily life. Away from cameras, artificial settings staged with turkeys christened May and Flower, without having to invoke a contrast between faceless, ominous "extremists and radicals" and honorable freedom fighters, people support their armed forces even as they reject war.
In gathering to share a meal, they are fully aware of the blessings they enjoy and that there are too many who don't. They don't need rehearsed rhetoric and they don't give thanks solely on a single namesake day.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org