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Giving thanks: It’s about a lot more than groaning tables and football

As we celebrate this uniquely American observance, I am:

• Thankful for the bounty of this incredibly beautiful and diverse land, and those in agriculture whose love and labor make possible the turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, pecan pie, and all the other gluttonous foods associated with the Thanksgiving meal (and for which I will be atoning for days following).

• Grateful beyond measure to those brave souls, centuries ago, who risked their all to make the perilous journey to a new world, confront and survive hardships, establish homes and communities, and lay the foundation for a country unlike any other on earth.

• Thankful for the wisdom and fortitude and bravery of those colonial patriots, the crafters of government and constitution, pledging “our lives, our fortunes, & our sacred honor.” Many did lose their fortunes, some their lives in their fight for freedom from oppression, both religious and political — but their sacred honor bears testament today to the nobleness of their goal.

• Overwhelmed with gratitude to those millions of men and women who, in all this nation’s wars, conflicts, and military actions, lost their lives, or were grievously injured, or suffered loss as a result of their service — that they cared enough for this country and its principles of liberty and justice that they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

• Thankful, however much we may bemoan the excesses and shortcomings of government, for our right to freely go into a voting booth and have a say in choosing those who will lead our country. Whether those we favor win or lose, the time-proven framework of democratic, constitutional government continues to serve us well. The governmental process can be cantankerous, contentious, combative, and often inefficient and unproductive (as with the current held-in-low-esteem Congress), but eventually the voters and the ballot box achieve a measure of equilibrium and things sort themselves out.

• Appreciative of those who dedicate themselves to government at any level, with the overarching goal of serving the interests of their constituents rather than personal aggrandizement or perpetuating themselves in office. Would there were more of them.

•Impressed anew, when Mother Nature unleashes her fury — as with the recent Hurricane Sandy — that we, as a collective people, come forward with money, time, and sweat to help those who’ve been been hurt to restore their lives.

• Thankful (and amazed), looking back on my own span of decades, for the advances in science and technology that have given us better health, longer lives, safer transportation and workplaces, cleaner air and water, comfortable homes, instantaneous communications (who but science fiction writers could have envisioned, just 50 years ago, wall-size hi-def color TV and face-to-face cell phone conversations?).

• Grateful for family, the joys of children and grandchildren, friends across the years (far too many, alas, now gone) — and each of you, who each week read the words we send your way in print and electronically. Our sincere appreciation to all who have invited us onto their farms and allowed us to share their stories and accomplishments with our readers. There are no finer folks in this land than farmers and their families, and we thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives.

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