The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are.” –
Out of a measured inclination and without speaking
for anyone else, I suspect most of us out here on the
plains are grateful. Each year we summon this message
as the calendar draws down and pause to take stock of
what is meaningful in our lives, the good and the bad, in
hopes that the good is winning.
At Thanksgiving especially we repeat these hopes,
even in the wake of more disaster, natural and manmade,
as we said last year and the year before, and here
we are again, praying for victims ‒ of murderous rampage,
of war and famine, of great storms, of poverty and
greed, of intolerance and neglect.
Once more we endure the brutality of man, the primal
combat and corruption that corrode our moral fiber.
Avarice and mania have laid waste to the Washington
agenda and to our fundamental government. And then
Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs, Tex., succeeding
Orlando and Ferguson, and Charleston and Paris and
Dallas, and other hellish landscapes, reminding us that
murder and fear continue on a massive scale. Yes, we are
still here but I wonder if many of us know why. To what
purpose do we go on? How many know, or care? That
we are thankful at all is a wonder.
And yet there are little clues, nuggets of faith.
We can no longer give thanks that we don’t really
know what terrorists are, or what war is like, or that fear
and ignorance are for other people in other places. But
we can still hope that our nation emerges from tragedy
and grief with greater awareness of the dark that threatens
WE GIVE thanks in tentative economic times that
our community remains financially stable, if not exactly
strong, and determined to improve.
That sirens in our town are still a major event because
they may involve someone we know, and because they
are so rare.
That we can go to work safely, on foot, or on bicycles
if we like, and that when we do drive, we aren’t channeled
bumper-to-bumper onto 80 mph freeways, or
forced to fight the fumes and long lines of stalled commuters.
When we get there, parking is free.
That we have so many goodies − by way of television
and computers and libraries − of the cities, but few of
the baddies, by way of porn or hustlers or muggers, or
That we can care about what happens to the elders
next door, and practice private charities, especially this
season and generally year ‘round.
That we are reasonably well-housed, and that we are
well-fed and well-clothed, without going deeper into
debt than we have been.
That we no longer worry so much about getting bigger
and richer, having seen what an obsession with bigness
and richness has done to other people and communities.
That we know our service station manager and our
grocer, our school teachers, and our newspaper editor,
and our city councilmen and councilwomen, and our
police chief, and we don’t hesitate to talk it over with
them when things seem out of hand, and that we extend
a hand or pat a shoulder when things seem to be going
well, and thanks to them.
That we want churches to be strong, that we still
believe the Commandments and the Constitution.
That we have wonderful schools and a college, their
promise for the next generation, and that we remain
committed and determined to help them in every way.
That we live in a community enriched with deep
Swedish history and a strong heritage, a place strengthened
through its unconditional embrace of varied
peoples and cultures.
That our community is brimming with people who
believe no day is dismal, and a dull sky is as plausible
as any other, and who embrace each morning with the
brightness and suddenness of a hyacinth, as though
spring were here, even in February.
That the footings of our community, of settlers with
abiding faith and a love of man, remain strong and
inspire us yet.
WHILE WE are grateful, we must resist the temptation
to give thanks that we are not as others.
That we do not pull into a little Midwest cocoon,
trying to preserve what is best and trying to ignore the
continuing horrors of poverty and racial hatred and religious
That we confront political and business corruption,
rather than ignore it, because it really is our concern.
IN THIS community we may give thanks for what we
have and for what we may be or would like to be, and
then let’s add another prayer:
Of thanks that we know life is not going so well for
many of the world’s billions; that we realize how we
are diminished when bombs and guns go off in Paris
or Orlando and about Damascus or Baghdad, or places
otherwise of innocence and decency; that we fear for
all refugees of war and despotism; that we can still help
when storms rage with murderous fury over our neighbors,
or when a great city goes to the wall, or when children
starve in the sub-Sahara, or villages are drowned
in Asia; and a prayer of thanks that we know we are not
truly alone out here on a Kansas island.
WE GIVE thanks that we can still care, and not only
for those around us. And that we strive not to be as the
Pharisees. Gratitude becomes us. Gratitude rooted in
smugness does not. We can truly be grateful if we realize|
and what rocks?
Our stapler went on the fritz the other day, which got
us to thinking about technology. Lately a lot of normally
rational people have become so smitten with technology
that these gadgets have been elevated to gods of
As the holidays approach, we pause. The Internet
and its cyber cohorts and escorts ‒ cell phones, iThings,
‘droids, ‒ have become at once the rule and the
exception. What is commonly seen as a “phone” – as in
cell phone – has been transformed; it is now a pocket
computer. We don’t really mean “phone” when we call
it that. For most, the voice in a phone call has disappeared.
These things send text messages, tweets, take
photographs, offer games and maps and apps; they present
the Internet, devouring attentions and stealing hours
with Facebook and other digital tar pits. These devices
are seductive, menacingly addictive.
We are not against machines, as are some people who
believe technology is leading us back into the jungle.
The Internet is handy most of the time, and adventurous.
We rather like machines, starting with the stapler
and, better yet, scissors, which are the highest points the
machine has yet achieved.
The danger now is when the convenience a machine
affords to some people becomes more important than
the inconvenience it causes to all. A tool ‒ the Internet,
a computer ‒ should never wear the pants or make the
We pursue our day through a jungle thicket of imponderables,
starting with the weather, Royals baseball,
Topeka and Washington; our machines are equipped
only for ponderables, such as paper, scissors and whatever
‒ JOHN MARSHALL