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It takes only a glance at recent headlines to understand, once again, why we Americans should be grateful for the lives we lead.

In Syria, rebels are trying to overthrow their autocratic and brutal government. Thousands have died, and still more will.

Here, we held a national meeting a couple of weeks ago to choose the government we wanted. The worst that happened was that some people had to wait in long lines. Should we not be thankful for that?

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“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

– Winston Churchill

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We are also thankful, or ought to be, for the bravery of those who fight our fires and police our streets. These can be intensely stressful jobs that inevitably are buffeted by the forces of finance and politics. But they are necessary to our lives. Just last week, two off-duty Buffalo firefighters and a DEA agent helped to save the lives of dozens of people caught in an apartment house fire on Amherst Street. They risked their lives to save those of people they don’t know. That’s heroism.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

– Nelson Mandela

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In Israel and Gaza, rockets have been raining down on innocent people. Families have been wiped out in a dispute that seems to have no end. Here, we deal with other kinds of violence, but nothing like that.

Here’s how much we have to be thankful for: So much so that we set aside a day for the purpose. Yes, it is infiltrated by parades and football and now even shopping, but the focus of the day is – and ought to be – family and thankfulness.

Indeed, for most of us, family is the first thing for which we are thankful – and for good reason. Family and close friends are those people who know us best and who love us anyway. It would be a lonely life without people who are willing to overlook our faults.

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“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

– Earl Nightingale

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Most of us don’t go hungry in this country, or even have to worry about it. Even when hard times come, we have resources available to us to ensure that we are nourished. For that we owe our thanks to the kindness of friends, family and people we have never met, as well as to a society that understands the need to provide when hunger approaches.

Still, many Americans will not have the feast today that so many of us will. For those with much, it is something to be especially thankful for as we sit down to eat today.

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“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

– Mother Teresa

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Thankfulness, of course, can be its own reward. Those who are possessed of a grateful heart are best able to weather the stresses of life and to keep them in context. The truth is that somebody always has it worse. Be thankful for what you have.

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“When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.”

– Lyndon Johnson