At this time in 2008, I was ranting and raving about the collapse of the financial world. “How could this happen?” I ranted. “Where are the government’s watchdogs?” I raved. But, by Thanksgiving, I had calmed down enough to count my blessings.
In 2009, ordinary citizens were outraged when we heard about huge bonuses at financial institutions that had to be bailed out by the government — that’s us, the taxpayers. We were outraged at each new revelation of moral bankruptcy. We were outraged, in fact, by most of what we heard on the news every day.
Today we’re not as much outraged as scared by the daily reports on the corona 19 virus. On October 23, there were almost 42 million cases worldwide and 1.14 million deaths. The United States, with nearly 8 ½ million cases and 223 thousand deaths led the world, followed by India and Brazil
A book I read back in 2009 helped restore my perspective, made me count my blessings again.
“A Distant Mirror,” was written in 1978 by the superb historian, Barbara Tuchman and is an accounting of the calamitous 14th century.
Not only did the plague — the Black Death — kill a third of the world, the people were preyed on unceasingly by the monarchies, the ruling classes and the church. Everything was for sale — every nomination, every appointment, every pardon, indulgence and absolution — all could be bought. Wars were constant; gangs of thugs roamed and marauded undeterred.
The share of Americans living in poverty in 2019 fell for the fifth year in a row and dropped to the lowest level on record, but all the gains in recent years are being jeopardized by the widespread economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Market Watch on October 23. The Urban Institute in October cited the U.S. poverty rate as 9.2%.
When we read the history of a long-ago terrible century or a report of Americans living in poverty today, we have to pause and wonder why — why, if we have a comfortable place to live, plenty of food, warm clothes,, where we’ve never had to bribe anyone to get anything and, above all, if we have people we love and who love us — why we should be so lucky?
I will remember this Thanksgiving — as I do every Thanksgiving — the old hymn I grew up singing in the little church across the street from our house: “Count your blessings, Name them one by one.”
This was in a farming community in northwest Oklahoma. This was during the Depression in the Dust Bowl. Nobody had money. But what they did have, they were thankful for. Families came together to sing with other families, “Count your blessings, Name them one by one.” This year, we can’t come together with other families.
But that’s what Thanksgiving Day is still for. To count our blessings. To name them one by one.
Mary McClure lives in Lawton.