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Gratitude as a Response to Violence

As this Thanksgiving arrives, I am filled with gratitude even though this is an especially disturbing, frightening and chaotic time in the world. Each morning, we wake to unrelentingly brutal headlines. Each night as we go to sleep, violent news clammers for our attention.

ISIS has savagely murdered an entire village of men, women and children. Another lone gunman has gone on a rampage wreaking havoc on a college campus, school or government facility somewhere. Ebola may not be as containable as we would hope and could become our modern day leprosy. Innocent people are hacked to death because others believe they do not have the right to exist. Women and girls disappear off of streets in countries everywhere. The very lucky ones are found. The less lucky ones permanently disappear from their loved ones’ lives and our permanent consciousness. Police brutality is a fact of life in our nation and around the world. Those are the headlines—the things we hear about. Meanwhile, millions of children every day are forced to serve as sexual slaves, work in forced labor or as child soldiers. Robbed of a childhood and any semblance of fundamental human rights, we deprive them and the planet of a treasure trove of talent and potential. And in a world of plenty, millions go hungry and homeless each day. A friend sent out a wrenching email a couple of months ago entitled "Feeling helpless again about the world situation--need to share." I was deeply moved. Yet I feel thankful.

I am thankful that we possess the means to know that these things are happening and to make individual choices to make a difference. None of us can solve any of these problems alone nor can we solve them permanently. Just like the cyclical harvest that Thanksgiving celebrates, there will always be challenges in our world. But any one of us can and all of us together surely can make a difference if we choose to face the suffering and struggles all around us. To me, that is the lesson of Thanksgiving.

We, who are so fortunate to celebrate freedom and plenty in our lives, have the opportunity and responsibility to share that bounty with others. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my healthy family, the food we will eat, and the privilege of being educated and financially secure United States citizens.

On Thursday, my family will gather like millions of others to celebrate us and all that we are grateful for. I hope that we will also draw inspiration from our many blessings and commit ourselves to another year of helping others find the means and ways to celebrate their own richly deserved harvests.

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