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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

A cabdriver gave me a reality check

Taxi cab.

Taxi cab. Credit: iStock

We are spoiled rotten, we Americans.

One wonders at times whether we deserve the bounty we’ve inherited.

Forty-six million turkeys have something to protest this week. Not us. We’ve got it all. Even those of us with far less than others have it all, historically speaking.

But all is never enough. Not if we lack gratitude.

It’s a sickness we’ve fallen into, this national ungratefulness, this media-driven blame game. America has become a country of belly moaners. We teach reasons to feel slighted in our universities. The more exclusive the college, the more exquisite the complaints. There is always a next protest, another category for victimhood.

It must have been easier for the Pilgrims to feel grateful that first Thanksgiving. Half of them died from disease and starvation in the winter of 1620; steaming plates of venison and corn must have looked heaven-sent in ’21. Perhaps they were.

Today, we complain about being fat, laying blame at the feet of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. We punish our children by taking away TV.

I had lunch with a pair of Kenyans last weekend. One had been here for two decades, the other just two weeks. The Americanized Kenyan explained to his compatriot some of the gripes and sensitivities Americans hold, like our growing catalog of perceived racial and gender offenses. The visitor laughed and laughed. We all did. America’s ridiculous good fortune is never so clear as through the eyes of a foreigner.

It’s why I love talking to New York City cabdrivers (an underappreciated luxury right there). So many are first-generation Americans. Even with the traffic and potholes and red light-camera tickets, an intense sense of gratitude emanates from the cabbies more often than not. They see paths for themselves unavailable to their parents. They see miracles ahead that third- and fourth-generation Americans already have but hardly notice.

I quit drinking a dozen years ago. One of the suggestions from those who had done so before me was to count my blessings each night before bed. I stopped doing that at some point. I’m not sure when, but I do know why: I began taking my new life for granted, just as the children and grandchildren of today’s taxi drivers will at some point.

What a silly thing to do.

Lest I forget to mumble it tonight, know how enormously grateful I am to those of you who read this column throughout the year. It is the privilege of a lifetime to be able to think aloud on these pages, however inartfully or inconsistently at times. I even appreciate the ridicule in the online comment section . . . though usually in retrospect.

No more belly moaning from me this week. Perhaps you can be thankful for that.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.

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