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From My Window

Issue Date: November 27, 2019

Gratitude

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

"Count your many blessings. Name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

This phrase popped into my head today and I got curious about its origins. It has a "folksy" feel about it, so I was surprised to learn it is lyrics from an old hymn. It was written in about 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., who trained as a Methodist minister but never had a parish. Instead, at the age of 36, he began writing liturgical lyrics. The hymn was set to music by Edwin Othello Excell. I like to think that Johnson, from heaven, is pleased that some woman in 2019 is reflecting on his words 122 years later.

When I think about Thanksgiving, I think about football, deer hunting, parades on TV, holiday season kickoff, turkey, family and friends, and pumpkin pie.

But the holiday's intent is to pause, quietly and thoughtfully, and give thanks to our creator. Every one of the earth's major faith traditions includes guidance on gratitude or thankfulness for observant followers. It is also a cornerstone for self-help programs, practices such as yoga and meditation, mental and emotional health maintenance and as a guideline for positive interactions with others we live, work, play or pray with.

So in the spirit of thankfulness, here's a few things I am very grateful for.

Freedom of the press. Our large and complex democracy absolutely depends on access to factual information; without a free press we are unable to hold our government servants accountable for their actions. This includes local newspapers like the Peshtigo Times all the way to world-wide information sources such as the highly respected BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation.) There are too many misleading and inaccurate sources of "news" available, especially on the internet where there is absolutely no accountability. The internet is the wild, wild west of information.

The four seasons. I love the grounding that I find in the predictable sequence of change. I never tire of the joy and challenges of each transition we have in Wisconsin, and I would find even the most delightfully temperate climate boring to live in.

Books. I could survive without television, but I hope I never have to live in a world without books. They make me laugh; teach me new things; hold me in suspense; comfort me; and help me pass time when I am in a waiting room or keeping vigil with sick family members or friends. I can access books any time I like with my library card, a public resource I am happy to support with my taxes.

The U.S. Postal Service. I correspond with some people who do not use e-mail, but I also just like the feeling I get when I open my own mailbox and see an envelope from someone I love. I like dropping an outbound letter into the slot at the post office knowing that someone will get that same feeling, seeing a card from me. And I still do the things for others that brought me joy when I was small, like putting a dollar bill or a stick of gum in a letter or card to one of my favorite little people.

Pets. I simply can't imagine life without the daily entertainment of Ivy, Wolfgang, Beeker, Spanky, Willow and Ugly Betty. They are at my side to comfort me when I don't feel well physically or emotionally; and they make me laugh with their antics and amusing interactions. I witness many heartbreaking things at the animal shelter, but to me one of the worst is an elderly dog or cat surrendered to our care because their aged human has had to move to assisted living. In my perfect world, every one of these devoted pairs would be able to stay together until "death do them part."

Volunteers. From the "church ladies;' those who support our veterans; the elderly who need help; lead our kids in sports and clubs like scouts; and entertain residents in nursing homes " you are the best. If you help with Special Olympics; the Rescue Squad; Habitat for Humanity; Make-A-Wish; take disabled people hunting or fishing; or help at a riding therapy organization, you are brightening the lives of so many people. If you volunteer at a school; teach religious education; are a Big Brother or Big Sister, a hug from me. These gifts of your time and talent make this world a better place and you will be rewarded in heaven; I truly believe that. And I also believe that old saying, "if you want something done ask a busy person." Most of the volunteers I know have active lives with many obligations - they simply choose to make time to "give back."

At my house this Thanksgiving, we will go around the tables and ask every person to name something they are grateful for. This "public" sharing has a value, but even more valuable is quiet, introspective times reflecting on our own blessings every day and not just at Thanksgiving.

I wish all Times readers a safe, warm and comfortable Thanksgiving.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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