Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uncounted atrocities in Darfur, threats brewing in Iran and North Korea. Much of the news around the world reveals little for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving. But that's never the whole picture.
It takes a fresh viewpoint, a different, more complete way of thinking to not let these calamities obscure our vision. We need to use a wide-angle lens to capture a picture that includes much goodness.
"[W]e are actually made for goodness," Desmond Tutu recently told the Dallas Morning News.
"We are so, I think, overwhelmed," added South Africa's archbishop emeritus, who has seen more than his share of great suffering – but also great healing and reconciliation – in his country.
"The media tend to inundate us with rather unpleasant news. We have the impression that evil is on the rampage, is about to take over the world," he says. "We need to keep being reminded that there is a great deal of good happening in the world."
Ultimately, he says, good does prevail. "[C]ontrary to all appearances, we are in fact made for harmony," he says. "We are made for togetherness. Ultimately, we are really family."
As family, friends, and even strangers gather around the Thanksgiving table, taking account of good may not be quite so hard if minds are set to it. For example, no acts of terrorism have occurred on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Isn't that worth gratitude? In fact, British police disrupted an alleged plot to blow up planes on their way to the US.
Americans can be grateful that they continue to be a generous people. Charitable donations rose 6 percent last year to $260 billion. Warren Buffett led the way when he announced in June that he would give away nearly his entire fortune, some $37 billion, reportedly the largest single charitable donation in US history.
Economic security also looks to be improving. Americans on average will earn about 4 percent more this year than last. With inflation low, that's the first real gain in years. (And remember that gasoline prices have retreated by one-third since last summer.)
For most people, gratitude begins even closer to home. They're grateful for simple joys: gazing into the inky beauty of a silent, starry night or delighting at the smell of pies in the oven. Most treasured are family and friends, near and dear. This newspaper has its own reason for special thanks in remembering Iraq correspondent Jill Carroll's release from her kidnappers unharmed last March.
Thanksgiving tables can be enlarged every year by embracing the whole human family in prayer. Americans can set a special place in their hearts, too, for US troops serving in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.
Keeping that often-mentioned "attitude of gratitude" can lead the way toward meeting life's challenges.
Take the experience of one hurricane Katrina survivor, who was displaced from her home last year.
"I think we have a nice future ahead," Deanna Misko told the Mississippi Sun Herald recently. She's grateful that her daughter "is being a big girl, being patient. She knows we'll get a house soon."
That expectation of good to come should inspire all Americans as they give thanks at their tables this year.