MARCANO: Talk about what’s going right this Thanksgiving

Ray Marcano
Ray Marcano

On Thursday, millions of Americans will sit around a Thanksgiving table with friends and family and, in many cases, note what they’re thankful for.

You can guess some of the answers. Friends, family, and health always make the top of the list. Coming out of COVID will certainly be a main talking point.

I’m also thankful for all of those things, but I try to think a little more globally about what we, as Americans, should be thankful for, not only on Thursday, but every day of the year. I also think about what we can do to make ourselves a better community.

Veterans: I’m always thankful for those who have served our country and have risked and sacrificed more than I ever will. When I see a veteran, I thank them for their service. If one’s in line for coffee, I’ll buy it. If I have a better seat on an airplane, I’ll switch with the veteran. We should thank them every day and, as a community, do more for them. Our veterans shouldn’t have to worry about their next meal or where they’ll sleep at night

Decency: With the endless drumbeat of bad news it seems as if Americans have lost all of their decency, meaning “behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability.” Not all of us have. The largest swath of our community doesn’t care about race, creed, color, or status. By in large, we are decent people who want to help and live the best life we can. Look around at the churches, groups, and business owners who will help feed those who often go hungry — not just Thursday, but every day. We need to do a better job drowning out the hate and celebrating decency.

Caring: Merriam-Webster defines caring as “displaying kindness and concern for others.” Americans gave more than $471 billion in 2020 — at the height of a pandemic — according to the National Philanthropic Trust. That’s six percent more than charitable giving in 2019. One in four Americans volunteer. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Yes, there are people who are miserable louts and don’t care about anyone and anything, but they are in the very small minority. When you see an ambulance pull up at a neighbor’s house, most of us don’t think about political differences. If anyone I know heard of a child who needed a coat, we wouldn’t just buy one coat without knowing if the little one had brothers and sisters who needed one, too. By in large, we do not give lip service to caring … because we really do care.

Freedom: We are, in my book, the freest country in the world. I know various indexes disagree (as do some people in this country) but if you objectively examine what we have it’s hard to argue. We have dozens of different religions in this country and all are free to worship as they choose. We can peacefully protest any issue without fear of arrest. We can say and write what we like within established legal precedent. Freedom doesn’t mean you always get your way and it doesn’t mean actions lack consequences. But it means that, by in large, we have the freedom to make the choices we want and live with the ramifications.

Smiles: A little thing that really isn’t. Now that we are, by in large, out of masks, I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing how someone reacts to the most common courtesy. Hold a door open? Get a smile. Offer someone to go ahead of you in the grocery store line? That gets a smile. Pay a compliment? Smile time. There’s lots of research that show smiles make people feel good — both the person smiling and the person watching it.

We are, by no stretch, a perfect people or community. There’s plenty of data available to show us what’s wrong with us. If you dig deep enough you can find something wrong with everything. Cake has too many calories — but I’m not giving up cake. Nope.

While you’re having dinner Thursday and thinking about what you’re thankful for, maybe you can add one more thing.

Talk about what’s right with us.

Ray Marcano is a long-time journalist whose column appears on these pages each week. He can be reached at