Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day. It is my favorite holiday of the year. It is all-inclusive without regard to religious preference. It remains relatively non-commercialized. Most importantly, it allows us to reflect on the blessings we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. Even in these difficult and anxiety-provoking times, there is a sense of peace that comes with being able to take inventory of the pieces and parts of our lives that provide contentment throughout the year.

We tend to realize how much we each have to be grateful for by comparing our own circumstances with those of others. As I write this, the morning newscaster just lead a story with "One in ten Minnesotans have no idea where their next meal is coming from . . ." A "one in ten" statistic should bring pause to all of us and certainly instill thanks in the lucky 90%. We spend billions of dollars a year on lottery tickets where the chance of winning is 1 in 146,107,962. Statistically, we are significantly closer to living in hunger than living in lottery riches. I am thankful that my family and I are hunger free and grateful that my children recognize their good fortune by supporting programs designed to eradicate hunger.

I am thankful that I live in a country that retains its faith in our Founding Fathers' vision of serial executives designed to allow new leadership to address the problems arising during the term of predecessors. Acting on this faith, we allow our system to work; we resist the temptation to panic; we do not resort to military solutions to redirect the policies of our government. This phenomenon manifests itself in the relative calm that our nation embraces as we await the commencement of the Obama Administration. The President-elect's steady, self-assured, focused and honest demeanor has proven to be a source of comfort strong enough to overcome the seemingly hopeless economic circumstances we face today. I am personally thankful that we have elected a leader who understands that his ability to deliver the promise behind "hope" requires a willingness to acknowledge the challenges we face instead of relying on empty slogans and jingoism.

We understandably count our thanks by measuring the well-being of our children. My children are now two young adults. I am proud of their values. I am proud of their ability to set long term goals for themselves and work diligently to achieve those goals. For six years, I ran a chemical dependency treatment center. On many occasions, I would meet a young man or woman whose bad decisions led to the need for treatment at our facility and think "There, but for the grace of God, goes my child." I am thankful that both children have escaped the personal devastation and replacement of dreams with nightmares that results from chemical dependency. My heart goes out to my friends and family, and to parents I have not yet met, who, tragically, are facing struggles with their own children.

My children give me other reasons to be thankful. As a preview to the 2008 Stern Family Holiday letter, I will share that Phil has moved from working with troubled youth in an Americorps program to teaching in a local school district and, consistent with his commitment to the less fortunate, has signed up to participate in the Big Brothers program. Ellie's inner compassion is evidenced by her dedication to continuing her education at the University of Arizona's accelerated R.N. program and the extra effort she makes on behalf of her patients, both in Tucson and previously at the nursing home in Minnesota where she worked after graduating college.

I am incredibly thankful for my wife, Deb. There is universal consensus that I do not deserve her. That's probably true. But until death us do part, I am thankful for her love, support, role modeling, compassion, industriousness and appreciation of a simple lifestyle.

I have the blessings of friends and family, many of which have been discussed in this blog over the past year. I have the the blessings of a career in which I can take pride in assisting others face challenges and pursue opportunities and I am thankful for the many clients and colleagues who continue to support me after my six-year hiatus from the full-time practice of law. I am thankful that I can make subjects happy with whatever skills I bring to a photo session. Their delight with the results encourages me to continue to pursue my artistic avocation. I am thankful for the strokes to my ego when one of my tens of readers comments favorably on my pondering. I am grateful that my blog mentor, Charlie Leck, continued to encourage me to write when I doubted I had anything to say. I am thankful for the relaxation I find when I take the time to write.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Find your own blessings in your life and recognize how they provide a platform from which to address life's challenges. Let the people you care about know that you care. Doing so sends a signal to the recipients that they have something additional to be thankful for.


Charles Leck said...

You're welcome!

Maura said...

Sam, Your blog is always my favorite thing I've read all week!The sentiments are lovely and it's true, you don't deserve Deb. Love, Maura

Anonymous said...

hey honey- I love you and am so thankful that I have such a loving supportive husband. You are the BEST!!xoxoxoxox