It's especially this time of year that we turn our collective attention in appreciation of those things for which we are thankful. There's much to be thankful for that many have taken for granted that we should, individually if not collectively, each bring to mind our gratitude each and every day. I remember reading somewhere that gratitude is the foundation of all virtues. Whether this is true or not, I happen to believe it is, for whatever virtues spawn from such appreciative expression can only be a good thing. At minimum it makes for a good feeling anyway. Often good enough to actually improve one's health.
In research published last year, Wendy Berry Mendes, a professor at the University of California, found that people who are thankful have lower resting blood pressure, are less reactive to stressful events, and also have higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol.
In another study Nathaniel Lambert of Brigham Young University, found that regularly writing, or journaling, those things about which we are thankful can decrease one's tendency to be materialistic and increase by 25% one's sense of happiness. These positive findings were experienced by participants who spent journaling their gratitude 2-5 minutes once a week for six weeks, or daily for two weeks.
In this spirit of journaling, notwithstanding any therapeutic benefits that might follow, I list a few.
If you've never had to sponge bathe out of a bucket of water following the aftermath of a hurricane then you may lack the appreciation of having the water flow cleanly, hot and cold, to you -- not only to bathe in, but to drink from. I'm thankful for running water.
I thank the men, women, and dogs that run toward danger, evil things, and bad people in order to keep us all safe, both in our local community and at the national level. They make making a living a lot easier, and life in general more meaningful, especially in light of what's in the international news these days. Sadly, many who are selfish are also thankless for these courageous people. Not me.
A couple of years ago a lightning bolt or something zapped a transformer on a pole by our driveway. The adjacent limbs and leaves caught fire, fell to the ground and began a fire that crept like an unstoppable vine towards our house. We called 911 and before I could grab a good hold of the garden hose men in alien-looking outfits had jumped out of the fire truck and in seconds the fire was out. My heart raced for more than a few minutes, but the ill feeling from realizing that our house could've really caught fire smoldered for a few days more. This kind of work involving running into burning buildings was never an occupation I considered in my youth. I've always thought it was a high-functioning sophisticated form of insanity for one to choose to make their living by running towards, and into, burning buildings. The lives they save and the property they protect is incalculable. I am so very grateful that these men have chosen this vocation. They have my utmost respect and I wish them, as well as those who've given their lives, and their families safe keeping.
I'm thankful for my good health. And this year I am especially thankful that there are men, and women, who are specially trained and skillful in being able to return normal eyesight to those whose eyesight is failing -- or was failing, like mine. Last year I was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing cataract in my left eye which for someone who likes to read clearly or see life stereoscopically became a hindrance to the enjoyment of things in general. I was fortunate to have consulted the advice of, and benefited from the surgical skills, of Dr. Christopher Hogan, a Gulfport, Mississippi ophthalmologist. When I was ready, which was sooner rather than later, Dr. Hogan recommended and agreed to remove the foggy lens that had, for whatever reason, failed to meet the purpose for which my Maker had put it there. Upon waking from the anesthesia, the improved vision was immediate -- in fact, even better than years before. For I no longer needed to wear glasses for reading. We have several good ophthalmologists on the Coast. Dr. Hogan happens to be one of the best. And to him, and his wonderful staff, I am very, very grateful.
I am and have always been thankful for my parents, and grandparents, whom I think fondly of always but especially so this time of year -- requiescant in pace. I'm sure like many other grown children there's not enough space here to express my gratitude.
I've made a few new friends this past year and have been enriched by the old ones. For all of them I am thankful. Cicero, the Roman statesmen, said about friendship: "Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief." To my friends -- thanks.
I am thankful for the freedom of religion, as well as the freedom from religion. And also, as I am writing this now, the freedom of speech and expression, which if the warped opinions of certain college students, elite academicians, ideologues, and politicians prevail will be abridged if something disagreeable to them should be spoken or written. In which case, may God help us all.
I am thankful for my four grown children, all of whom are grown and are contributing and functioning taxpayers. They are and continue to be a blessing.
And of course I am thankful for my wife, to whom my expression of thanks would take up much more time and many more pages. She already knows this (I think) to be true. I'm not allowed to express any more than that in this forum lest her humble self take me to task for making her blush.
And finally I am thankful there is a God. A God who is free with the gift of faith. A God who is both merciful and just. A God who has graced our great country with many blessings, blessings requested over 200 years ago in petitionary prayer by none other than our very first President.
For these few things and many more -- thanks.
Feel free to write a few of your own. It'll make you feel good and may even lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. And even if not, it might just birth a much-needed virtue.