By DON DELVER, Community Columnist Commonwealth Journal
November is a contemplative month. Cold weather begins to keep us indoors more and holidays like Thanksgiving invite us to think about the many things for which we are thankful.
When we ask folks what they are thankful for, we often hear many of the same answers. Most often, people tell us they are thankful for their friends, their families and their faith, for their good health and for being able to live in a great country. Each of these represent truly important parts of our lives and are things for which we should certainly be grateful.
I wanted to take a slightly different approach this year, so I challenged people in our community and people from other parts of Kentucky and beyond (Yes, Virginia, there is a big world out there) to think about and share with me some things they were truly thankful for that were not related to family, friends, faith or good health. I have heard from people in Pulaski County, from Lexington and Latonia, and from the Buckeye State, the Golden State, the Old Dominion and even from far off Kathmandu.
Several people mentioned indoor plumbing, and I am old enough to have used an outhouse, so I heartily share their gratitude. Other labor saving devices were listed, and when we look back to a time when rugs were beaten by hand, laundry took all of one day and part of the next, and folks had to make their own clothes, kill and dress their own meat and bake their own bread, the value of the humble vacuum cleaner, the washer and dryer, the refrigerator and the microwave, not to mention power tools, really becomes apparent.
Others gave thanks for the nation’s farmers, who labor to feed us all. I would agree and would add my thanks to the nation’s truck drivers, railroad workers and airline employees whose job it is to move the food, the products, and the people where they all need to go.
Several people expressed thanks to the folks working behind the scenes who maintain the railroads, the runways and the highways, who labor day and night, rain or shine, to repair downed power lines and keep the lights on or the phones working, the school hallways clean and the neighborhood garbage picked up and who do countless other important but largely unnoticed jobs to make our lives a little better.
Some gave thanks for the freedom to read what we like without fear of censorship. Others were thankful for being born into the information age, which has its pitfalls, but also the potential for doing much good.
Some were grateful that women today have so many more opportunities for growth, both personal and professional, that did not exist in years past and which still do not exist for women in many areas of the world. Many wanted to thank the men and women of our armed forces and our veterans whose service guarantees our many freedoms.
A large group expressed thanks for the opportunity to get a good education and several were grateful for the chance to help others do the same. I would number myself among the latter, as the years I taught were some of the most enjoyable of my entire working life. A day rarely goes by that I do not think about something that happened in one of my classrooms, or read something posted by a former student or a colleague. Teaching was by far the most demanding work I ever did, but also the most rewarding, and I am forever grateful for having met so many wonderful people who work in the profession or who sat in my classroom and helped me see the world through their eyes.
We are thankful for things both big and small, it seems. The unconditional love of pets, central heat and air conditioning, a window with a screen that lets us enjoy the fresh air and the view of our garden, while keeping out the bugs and the rain, or the wonderful diversity around us that reminds us how dull things would be if everyone looked, talked, thought and acted the same. Some of us are thankful for jazz, others for poetry or for a little time spent with the Impressionists. Fishing, golf, computer games, a night at the movies all represent things which take us, for a few moments, away from the mundane and for that, we can give thanks.
I gave myself the same challenge and I will close with a couple of things for which I am truly thankful. I am grateful for government workers and for government regulations. (Pause for gasps of astonishment) Yes, I realize that our government hired Larry, Curly and Moe to help create Healthcare.Gov, but I refer to some of the other government workers, such as those at the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland, where they are developing medicines to treat the most deadly viruses known to man and the vaccines to prevent us from ever getting infected. The workers at The National Institutes of Health provide important research into the causes and cures for major killers like cancer and heart disease, which I truly appreciate. I am thankful for the men and women who keep our National Parks and Forests pristine and for the government which had the foresight to set precious land aside for future generations to enjoy.
I appreciate the work done by postal employees, whose delivery service remains one of the true bargains in this country of ours.
I am grateful to the US Marshals who fly on our airlines all over the world to protect us from hijackers.
I am grateful to the men and women of TSA who help keep our airports safe. I am thankful for the FBI, the CIA and the state and local police and sheriffs, who protect us not only from violent and property crime, but from terrorist threats.
I am thankful, too, for the fire fighters, the teachers, the doctors and nurses in our county and veterans hospitals, and for the many clerks and counselors and social workers who process our Social Security and Medicare claims and who care for our veterans at the VA clinics and hospitals.
Finally, I am thankful for government regulations, such as those that help keep our air clean and our water safe to drink.
I am grateful that our nation’s food supply is protected and inspected and for the regulations which have made both our highways and our cars safer over the years and which have reduce traffic fatalities by more than 20,000 a year since 1972, even while the miles we drive each year has more than doubled since then. I, too, am grateful for things both great and small, for my chance to serve my country in the Army and, later, to serve its children and their families in the classroom. I am also thankful for the chance to share my thoughts with you, dear readers, and to hope that you also have much to be thankful for.