As you gather with your loved ones today, ask yourself: How many could have made it to your Thanksgiving table were it not for modern transportation? Are the kids home from college for a couple of days? Did grandma and grandpa and the aunts and uncles trek out for the meal?
Admittedly this scene might feel like a mixed blessing by nightfall, but it is a blessing nonetheless.
Then consider, how many of them would not be with you were it not for the advent of modern medicine? How many would have died, of illness or trauma or the simple ravages of age, how many more hobbled by pain or illness?
Look at the food on the table, not just the plenty but the breadth. Are there salad and fresh fruits and vegetables? In late November? A diet rich in variety and varied in nutrients, available year-round, is the most modern of inventions.
Consider the fact that you are reading this editorial now - both that you have the ability to and that it exists. Widespread literacy is not only a recent trend in human history, it is only recently that it even became a goal. If you are reading it in print, understand that the idea of inexpensive, informative reading material is a great luxury. If you are reading it on a computer, reflect on the extraordinary gamut of entertainment and information that computer brings you.
And are you doing this reading with the help of contact lenses or glasses? If so, consider what your life would be like without these quite modern luxuries.
So many of the gifts we are graced with have become so accepted as to be nearly invisible. It is hard to remember, at a time when economic prospects are floundering and our institutions are besieged with problems, that we are blessed beyond belief.
We live better today than any humans ever have, better than any king or potentate who ruled before 1950. How many of us would trade our current lives to be the richest monarch in the world in the year 1800, and do without heat and air conditioning, modern transportation, modern medicine, all forms of media, scientific knowledge, psychiatric treatment, comfortable fabrics and luxuries ad infinitum?
Though nostalgia for a simpler time might make us feel otherwise, there are, in comparison with today, no good old days. These are the best of times. Ours are the best of lives.
We once were a nation where a black man could be killed for trying to vote. We have become a nation where a black man is president. We once were a nation where a woman had no standing in court. We have become a nation where three women sit on the Supreme Court. We once were a nation where gay men and lesbians had no rights to speak of. We are nearing the time when they will enjoy all their rights.
We are free to speak, worship, love and vote as we wish. We are free, and most of us are able, to pursue dreams, care for families and live secure, comfortable and rewarding lives.
So today, and every day, let our glasses and our hearts be not just half full, but overflowing - with gratitude for all the gifts with which we are graced, both visible and invisible. hN