My wife asked me if I’d written a Thanksgiving column.
The honest answer was “no.”
It can be a little tricky being thankful in November in Minnesota. It’s not usually the first emotion that comes to mind. There’s only about four hours of daylight, and that’s on a sunny day. You need to start digging out winter clothes, the house needs to be cleaned before the holiday hordes descend, and you realize your dreams of saving money by living off homemade wine and goose jerky are gone for another year. Last week the weather turned cold, with high hard winds out of the north, strong enough so we could hear the malevolent whistling through the walls of the house. Work was done under tepid blue skies, with the murmur of discontented geese in the distance. All in all, thoughts of gratitude weren’t the first ones to cross my mind.
On the other hand, I’m not a dummy – I know how much I have to be grateful for. My immediate family is scheduled to make a jump from 8 to 11 sometime in the next few months, a development that has my wife giddy with grandmotherly anticipation. I still like where I live and what I do. My health is pretty good – I have a few more aches and pains than I did a year ago, but most of them are my own fault. When I open my eyes in the morning, I have something to do that matters and most nights I can go to bed feeling like I’ve gotten a little something accomplished. All in all, not so bad.
In addition to being grateful for what I have, I’m really grateful for what I’m not.
I’m glad I’m not the president. It’s never an easy gig, even back when George Washington was dealing with the Whiskey Rebellion, but now-a-days it seems like a president is continually being presented with problems that can’t be solved with the wave of a hand and an unreasonable populace that looks to him for all things. I understand the concept of “The Buck Stops Here” and “If You Can’t Stand the Heat Get Out of the Kitchen,” but what are we, a country of five year olds? Maybe we can handle a few things on our own - without Washington’s help.
I’m really grateful that I’m not one of the people who have just been elected and are now headed to Washington expecting to cut government, lower taxes, balance the budget, and not touch Social Security and Medicare while they do it. I’m not understanding how that math works. Now, I’m a pretty liberal guy, but a lot of my neighbors are what I would call true conservatives – people who think we need a less intrusive government that balances its checkbook and doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. I completely respect that point of view.
But, when a sizeable majority of the American people don’t want their taxes raised, do want the budget balanced, but don’t want any changes in Social Security, Medicare, or defense spending, which use up about two thirds of the budget, I’d be really leery about being the elected official that agreed to pull that off.
So, right now I’m grateful for where I live and for what I have. I’m grateful for my family and for who I am.
And I’m really grateful for who I’m not.
Copyright 2010 Brent Olson