We have reason to be thankful

Published 12:51 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple things make life special, not big stuff, but small moments that fill our hearts. I was thinking about that and about Thanksgiving when I noticed bananas sitting on my counter. They weren’t past the point of no return, but close.

“I need to do something with those,” I thought, squeezing to check the mushiness level. “Another day and they won’t be any good.”

I decided to make tarts and searched for my recipe. I found it scribbled on the back of the fruit cake recipe I got from my mother-in-law. I’d jotted down the basic ingredients without much instruction about mixing and frying the tarts because I knew the process by heart.

As I made the dough, I thought about my mother and my grandmother. The tarts were Daddy’s favorite, probably because his mother made them when he was a child.

My mother got the recipe from her and, on rare occasions, made juicy tarts. Rare occasions because with six children and a husband who could eat his weight in tarts, it was a big undertaking to make enough to go around. So they were a huge treat.

As I sliced the bananas and sealed them in the rounds of dough I’d shaped, I felt a sense that life is indeed about the simple things, like the joy of making banana tarts.

Tomorrow America awakes to Thanksgiving Day, and to a world the news describes as “full of uncertainty.” There is change in the air, but isn’t that always true to some degree.

The challenge is how we respond to it, how we react to messages about uncertainty. Do we panic or do we stop and put it into perspective? An e-mail I received offered a dose of reality. Here is a bit of what it contained:

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, here are reasons to be grateful.

The majority of the world lives in poverty. Not U.S. poverty defined as earning less than about $17,500 a year for a four-person household, but poverty where 80 percent of the worlds’ population lives on less than $10 a day, one in four people in the world live on less than $1 a day, and 15 million children die each year of hunger. Even in our current economy, we spend approximately $17 billion each year on pet food, $8 billion on cosmetics, and $11 billion on ice cream.

Ten million children die every year from preventable or treatable diseases — roughly the population of the state of Georgia. One quarter of the world lives without electricity and two thirds without clean water.

In the past decade, over two million children worldwide died in war, 4-5 million were disabled, one million were orphaned, and 10 million were psychologically traumatized by war. Over one billion people in the world cannot sign their names or read and if we spent 1 percent of what we spend on weapons, we could educate all of these people.

The 2007 U.S. gross national income per capita was approximately $46,000 a year, compared to Uganda ($340), Rwanda ($320), Ethiopia ($180), Liberia ($150) and Burundi ($110). Many of us spend more on Thanksgiving dinner than people in these countries make in a year and for Christmas spend more on our children than the gross national income per capita of all of these countries combined.

The mortgage “crisis” directly affects less than 5 percent of people in the U.S. Even those affected by foreclosure don’t usually end up homeless, compared to over 1 billion people worldwide who do not have homes of any kind.

After reading this, I whispered a prayer of thanks for the things I have — a healthy family, a home with electricity and running water and the certainty that on Thanksgiving Day, I’ll awake in a free country able to appreciate those things that make life special — like enjoying leftover banana tarts.