On giving thanks

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The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men
are.” – Luke 18:11
Without speaking for anyone else, but only out
of notion, I suspect most of us out here on the
plains are grateful.
A year ago we said this in the wake of more
disaster, and the year before that, and here we are
again, praying for victims ‒ of great storms, of
murderous rampage, of war and famine, of poverty
and greed.
It hasn’t been a good year. Better than last, but
still not great. We have endured the brutality and
primal combat that corrodes our electoral process
and laid waste to the Washington agenda and the
state government. 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 itself a wonder.
And yet there are little clues.
We can no longer give thanks that we don’t
really know what terrorists are, or what war is
like, but we can be hopeful that our nation emerges
from tragedy with greater awareness of the dark
that threatens our society.
WE GIVE thanks in perilous economic times
that our community remains financially stable, if
not exactly strong.
That sirens in our town are still a major event
because they are so rare.
That we can go to work by walking, or on
bicycles if we like, and that when we do drive, we
don’t fight fumes and long lines of stalled commuters.
When we get there we wheel into a convenient
parking spot, free, and we don’t feel the need
to look around while fumbling for our keys.
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 hopeless addicts and hapless
drunks.
THAT we can care about what happens to the
elders next door, and practice private charities,
especially this season but usually 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 school teachers, and our newspaper editor, and
our city councilmen and councilwomen, 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 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.
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 bigotry.
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 blast
in Baghdad or in Islamabad or Kabul, or when
storms rage over our neighbors with murderous
fury, or when a great city goes to the wall, or
when children starve in the sub-Sahara, or villages
are drowned in Southeast Asia; 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 that.
*
It has become a tradition at this time of year to
offer the above column on giving thanks, edited for
context and circumstance. – JM
***
And thanks for that
‘scholarship fund…’
What goes around can, indeed, come around.
The time-told adage comes this time from volunteers
of the Lindsborg Kiwanis flag project,
launched last spring. It’s a community-wide program
to install and maintain the U.S. Flag on certain
federal holidays at the homes of residents who
subscribe to the program.
During the program’s startup in mid-May, one
Lindsborg resident hoped to signed up for the project
but didn’t have the full $40 fee, according to
Kiwanis treasurer Gary Hartter. She told him that
she would need time to pay the total amount.
“It just happened that a couple of weeks earlier,
a gentleman had anonymously donated $40 and
told us it was for someone who might want a flag
but couldn’t afford one,” Hartter said.
“So I told her that her flag would be free this
year, compliments of an anonymous donor, like a
scholarship fund,” Hartter said.
The woman was elated. Hartter felt good about
the circumstance, and in short time it slipped
his mind. A few months later, in August, Hartter
found a surprise in the mail: a $40 check from the
woman, with a note that she “wanted to be part of
the Flag ‘scholarship’ donor program.”
*
Note: About 50 residents now participate in the
Flag program, which recently included Veterans’
Day on Nov. 11.
– JOHN MARSHALL

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