Theory of relativity

Posted Nov. 24, 2009, at 5:56 p.m.

Giving thanks might seem like an exercise best left for next spring. After all, the economy is in terrible shape, probably the worst it’s been since the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce, as the 10.2 percent unemployment shows.

The nation is embroiled in two seemingly endless wars. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible in one war, we are told, but how to conclude the other has the best minds disagreeing. And still, the death toll rises. As does the cost.

The trust Americans have in their government is at a low point. Approval ratings for President Barack Obama have dipped below 50 percent for the first time, and congressional approval ratings remain at half that.

The H1N1 flu continues to rage, the state budget faces a $400 million shortfall and gas prices are on the rise. And on it goes.

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So how can one reflect and be grateful? Consider what we’ll call the theory of relativity.

Most readers will hold this newspaper or peer at a computer screen in the relative comfort of a house, apartment, car, restaurant, office or workplace. That they can read puts them ahead of large parts of the world; that’s relativity that should lead to thanksgiving. That they have a job, home and vehicle also is worth a measure of gratitude.

The global economic woes are serious, and anyone struggling to make ends meet knows real pressure and worry. But we Americans remain among the wealthiest in the world. To get a further dose of relativity, travel a few miles south of the border from California to Tijuana, Mexico, to see people who would gladly welcome housing that equaled a typical Maine woodshed.

Hunger is a growing problem in Maine, but relatively speaking, many in the developing world would rejoice at seeing their children enjoy the free breakfasts and lunches offered in our schools. Many also would welcome the fast food leftovers that get tossed into the trash bin.

“At least you’ve got your health” is a platitude that has little meaning until sickness strikes. But consider the sickness we never face because of where we live. Many children in the developing world will go blind, be scarred or die before adulthood for lack of medicine or a vaccine that costs about what a copy of this newspaper costs.

And finally, though just about every family has ties to the military, many of whom are in harm’s way, we can walk the streets by day and sleep soundly at home at night knowing armed conflict will not erupt in our towns and cities.

The grass can seem greener elsewhere, but a more accurate assessment should leave most of us thankful for the blessings we enjoy. Taking time to count them is worth the effort.

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