Something to think about before turkey and mashed potatoes
By Michael Lewis
Like we do with many things, we take Thanksgiving for granted. It just becomes a paid holiday, a day to leave our desks, sleep late and enjoy Florida's autumn weather.
The reason we're getting that day of leisure is secondary - if we remember it at all.
We'll sit down to turkey dinners with our families, and many of us will give less thought to the reason we're gathering than to what time the football game starts.
It's understandable that we give short shrift to the meaning of the holiday. Most of us want for nothing. We are materially so blessed that if we have good health, it's hard to conjure up a single true need.
Instead of giving thanks for our extreme good fortune, we take it entirely for granted.
The pilgrims could sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner fortunate that they had life, a home and food. Miamians sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with more than our ancestors - or even our grandparents, by and large - could have imagined.
Think of the massive capabilities of our computers to do things we can't possibly use - a thousand things we'll never access.
That's the way our lives are - such an abundance of choices at our fingertips that our only true need is the time to take advantage of them all.
We have more clothes in our closets than we can wear, more books than we can read, more on television than we can view, more in the refrigerator than we'll eat, more events than we can attend - more of everything than we can take advantage of.
In such circumstances of overabundance, it's hard to focus on giving thanks for having roofs over our heads or food on our tables.
But we're living unusual lives. We are the fortunate few, born amongst a relatively small sliver of the human race whose concern is too much rather than too little. While we spend discretionary income for pleasure, the vast majority of humanity is far closer to subsistence than abundance.
We worry about choices in use of our time and money. The vast majority of the human race has no choice other than struggling to survive.
Each day, we discard excess food and clothing that on most of the globe would be precious. Our personal lives are rich beyond most of humanity's dreams.
Then there is our equally rich community life.
In Miami-Dade County, we're about to start worrying about how and when to spend nearly $3 billion in bond funds for more than 300 community projects. How many entire nations on the face of the globe have a quarter as much resources for their citizens' basic needs?
We worry about how many stadiums and performance halls and museums we can offer to our people without stopping to consider that in most of the world, these are incredible luxuries.
Our levels of public service - as basic as water and sewer, policing and firefighting - would be the envy of much of the globe.
We call our much-maligned local government third-world, but in the second and third worlds, it would be a beacon, a democratic system that brings true benefits to our residents - of course, not as good as government here could or should be but still a standout on a global scale.
We are building residences that more than 99% of humanity would consider palaces - perhaps 50,000 of them within the next year alone.
Then there's the land we live on and the climate we live in, the envy of our brethren in much of our own very rich nation, where Thanksgiving itself can be a cold and dreary day.
When we sit down to that ham or turkey or roast beef on Thanksgiving, we might count and then give thanks for all of our blessings - our embarrassment of riches that makes unthinkable those first Thanksgiving dinners when early European settlers gave thanks to God that they had made it another year with something to eat.
It will only be a few minutes out of a day of rest, little enough to carve out of our lives to remember why we give thanks - and time to pray that the rest of humankind may someday be half so fortunate as we are.