Once again the holiday season has fallen upon us. The older I become, the quicker the year rotates back around to the joyful times. The speed of the year is a matter of perspective, of course. For a five year old, one year is fully a fifth of his life. For a more than fifty year old, it is a much smaller percentage and seems, therefore, correspondingly tiny.

My children are in high school or college, and so the days leading up to one of the big holidays seem to drag endlessly for them. This year, my children get the entire week of Thanksgiving off and are looking forward to not having to get up early in the morning.

My family lives on the other side of the country in Ohio or Florida. But my in-laws followed their daughter—my wife—to California after we were married (something about a job transfer. A likely story.) So, as usual, this holiday season, our home will be the destination for most of my wife’s family–well, her mother and sister, anyhow.

My hope is that the day will consist of the children all having a good time jumping about, playing video games, and making as much noise as such not-so-tiny anymore people are capable of producing. The adults will mostly sit in scattered chairs trying to talk to one another above the teenager-induced racket. At some point, there will be food, followed by more sitting and talking and maybe some watching of DVDs on the television as the day winds down and people begin wandering away back to where they came from.

And so what am I thankful for this year? I am thankful that after feeding all the people that will show up at my house I will still be able to afford to pay my mortgage. I’m thankful that my children are healthy. I’m thankful that my wife and I are both healthy and well.

It is easy, in the day-to-day grind, and with the added stress of the holidays, to lose sight of just how much there is to give thanks for. Whether you’re happy with the current President and Congress, one can still be thankful that we at least are able to have elections and have been having them peacefully for more than two hundred years. There aren’t many places in the world that can say that, or that can have confidence that the transition from one administration to the next will occur without bloodshed of any sort—and we can always easily replace the current rascals we’ve elected with new ones soon enough.

We can be thankful for the things that we usually don’t notice. I’m thankful for my morning coffee every day. I’m thankful for hot water in my shower. I’m thankful for modern medicine and dentistry. I’m thankful for the roads and the other benefits of civilization like electricity and microwave popcorn.

I’m thankful for a bed to sleep in and for cheap and plentiful food supplies. Historically, the sin of gluttony was condemned because it meant you were eating more than your fair share, taking food that could have sustained someone else. Now, when we think of gluttony, we see it as poor discipline: a lack of self-control. For most of human history, our biggest problem was starvation. In these United States, our biggest worry now is obesity. And the fattest among us tend to also be our poorest (who can’t afford gym memberships or racquetball court fees). How odd is that?

Something else to be thankful for as we sit down to overeat this Thanksgiving.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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