During this Thanksgiving season, I thought I’d list a few of the many things about American society for which I am grateful. Often we hear only criticisms of our society – from both the right and the left – and for this reason I think that it is always important to step back and to think for a minute about some of the things in the society that we seem to be doing right.
1. I am grateful for the many things in our society that are merit-based. Our Founding Fathers were intent on creating a society whose members would not reach positions of power or prominence by the accident of their birth. Although we do still make mistakes on this issue, the vast majority of our business, professional, and political positions are merit-based.
2. I am grateful for the many men and women in America who are not seeking media attention, but who are faithfully serving in their professions and making the society a success. I am thinking especially of policemen and policewomen, firefighters, doctors, public health workers, coaches, urban workers, and others. There are a lot of people in our society who have no desire to become rich and famous, but who want to live successful lives in which they can give back to the community. Their professions are not very highly compensating, but they work hard at their jobs anyway. And I’m very grateful for that.
3. I am grateful for the many retired people in our society who volunteer in ways that help the rest of the society function smoothly. Sometimes they coach youth soccer. Sometimes they are docents at museums. Sometimes they volunteer to tutor underprivileged youth in inner cities. I am grateful for them all. They are in many ways doing the kinds of jobs that help make our society more functional and that otherwise would fall through the cracks.
4. I am grateful for people in our society who value beautiful landscape and who are willing to put in the time and effort to beautify our surroundings. Sometimes these people are the next door neighbors who are out in their gardens every Saturday. Sometimes they are the owners of corporate parks who invest in flowers and fountains. Sometimes they are the supporters of city parks who make an effort to protect the urban landscape against encroaching development. I’m a big fan of nature – even in urban settings – and I am grateful for the many people who are working hard in our society to keep us in touch with our natural surroundings.
5. I am grateful for the many sincere and devoted church-goers in our society. I am a Christian, and I make every effort to live out my faith in a practical way through devotion and service. I know that there are exceptions and that the religious faith of a lot of people in American society is phony. Nevertheless, on balance, among the many church-goers I know in American society, I am aware of a large number of faithful people who are living simple lives of service and stability. I am grateful for their devotion to God and for their commitment to live out that devotion on an everyday basis in a way that blesses their neighbors, their friends, and their surroundings.
6. I am a teacher by profession, and I am very grateful for the many teachers who were instrumental in my education over the years. We all know them – the teachers whose inspirational style and spark was essential in getting us through the rough patches in our education. I remember what a handful I was in junior high and how confused I was when I started college. The teachers in my life – and in all of our lives – were the patient instructors who showed us the joy of learning and taught us to stay away from lives of mere desire fulfillment.
7. I am grateful for the inventors, scientists, and discoverers in our society. I know that they often get plenty of recognition when the media focuses on their latest achievements. But what they sometimes do is truly incredible, and there is every reason to laud and honor them. I am thinking of the doctors and biology researchers whose labor in laboratories right now is leading to tomorrow’s disease cures. I am thinking also of the computer engineers whose labor on codes and other complicated mathematical projects is leading to countless labor-saving devices for tomorrow’s generation.
So I am grateful for them all – for all the unsung heroes, the families, the lifelong friends, and the countless others in our American society who are working to make our nation great. We are truly blessed by God and it is important every year to remember some of the ways in which that blessing is manifested in the lives of our fellow citizens.