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Talking Points: Giving thanks for what we don't have

One evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I was standing in front of the bathroom sink and thinking that I was kind of thirsty and should get some water. Immediately, I began heading to the kitchen to grab a bottle from the refrigerator.

About halfway there, I suddenly stopped and couldn't help but laugh at what has happened to me and our society. I stood inches away from a tap that, with a mere flick of my wrist, would send gushing forth a virtually unlimited supply of cold, fresh water, some of the cleanest in the world.

And instead, my first thought was to fetch a plastic bottle.

No one wants to hear another Thanksgiving-time diatribe about how we need to turn off the football game, set aside the turkey leg and think about how blessed we are for what we have.

How about we give thanks for what we don't have?

Most of us don't have to walk miles to get fetid water we wouldn't let our dogs drink so we can cook a meager supper that won't fill all the mouths that need filling. Our children don't have to miss out on educations and play so they can spend their days gathering fire wood to cook that supper.

Many of us don't have to worry about literally starving to death -- this isn't the "starving to death" we talk about when Thanksgiving dinner gets delayed because the Stove Top stuffing isn't done. We don't have to worry that we'll freeze to death because we've run out of oil or wood to burn. We don't have to be concerned that we might be slaughtered by a militia just because we're not one of "them."

Many of us don't have to worry about our kids and other loved ones dying of diseases such as diarrhea and tuberculosis, which each claim about 2 million lives a year. We don't have to fret too much about meningitis, pertussis, measles and malaria, which also kill hundreds of thousands around the world each year.

A great number of us don't have to worry about getting prompt medical care as we bellow about the high cost of health and social programs we secretly pray will be there for us when we're old, frail, scared and broke.

Many of us don't have grandparents, aunts and uncles who sugarcoat the "good old days" that really weren't all that good. They tell us stories of hard times that show us life is not some gauzy, sentimental journey. It's an unvarnished gift that may not always be pretty but has unlimited promise for those who work at it.

For the most part, we don't have to worry about our kids and grandkids forgiving the sins and foibles of their elders. We do hope they understand that, for the most part, we took their best interests to heart and that we truly wanted to improve the human condition, not tear it down. If all that one day becomes clear, we don't have to hesitate to give thanks.