It’s the time of year where, in between making travel plans and baking trimmings for the turkey, we’re supposed to take stock of the things in our lives for which we’re thankful. Frankly, we should be doing this a lot more often than once a year, but I, for one, am guilty of oftentimes allowing the negative things life throws at me to consume my thoughts. I should and do realize, on balance, I’ve got it pretty good.
Still, I think it’s OK when counting blessings to think about how things might be better. This isn’t ingratitude. Instead, it’s a desire that more and more people can have more and more things for which to be grateful. So, in the following list of things I’m both thankful and hopeful for, my desire is my appreciation for what I have shows through, and my hopefulness for other things is just a realization that others might not have it as well as I do.
• I’m thankful for my wife. She’s put up with a lot in the last few years: Six rounds of law school finals — not to mention moot court — that made me a less than pleasant person to be around for a month at a time. An internship which required us to live apart for three months. A cross-country relocation in which she had to take on most of not just the heavy lifting, but the paperwork as well, and a crosstown move while I’ve been laid up with a bad back. Despite all of this, she still loves me and takes care of me, for which I’ll be forever grateful. I’m hopeful that, someday, everyone can not only find his or her soulmate, but can also make the decision to get married free from government and social prohibition.
• I’m thankful for my health insurance. My aforementioned back issue has required numerous doctor visits, trips to physical therapy and prescriptions, and I’m glad I can co-pay for those things. I’m hopeful we as a country can find a way for everyone to be able to afford quality medical care, instead of tolerating a system where CNN estimated 900,000 bankruptcies were filed in 2009 because of medical bills.
• I’m thankful for my job. Not just having one, but it being one in the field in which I studied and built experience. As of October, 13.9 million Americans didn’t have one. Another 8.9 million can only find part-time jobs, even though they need or want a full-time gig. And, even though Alaska generally and Juneau specifically is doing better than most of the rest of America when it comes to employment, there are still more than 25,000 Alaskans and 900 Juneauites looking for work. I’m glad my job also provides the health insurance I mentioned above. The number of Americans that can say the same about their own jobs is growing smaller and smaller. I’m hopeful the numbers of unemployed and underemployed folks continue to decline.
• I’m thankful for the roof over my head. It’s on top of more-than-adequate living space, not to mention a couple of nice televisions and a Blu-Ray player that’s hooked up to Netflix, among other creature comforts. Nearly 650,000 Americans at one point in 2010 couldn’t claim a home of their own, never mind some of the niceties I’ve been blessed with. More than 4,500 Alaskans — more than 400 of those in Juneau — spent one or more homeless nights in 2009, according to a study by the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’m hopeful housing opportunities grow and the underlying causes of homelessness — including unemployment, catastrophic economic disasters, untreated mental illness and addiction — shrink.
• Finally, I’m thankful for my dog. I know my wife loves me unconditionally, but she sometimes gets angry with me — usually because I deserve it. Not so Coach, who couldn’t get mad at me, or anyone, ever. His happy tail and boundless energy are a continual source of joy for my wife and me, and all he asks in return is belly rubs and the occasional Milk Bone. Coach picked us out at a rescue event in Oklahoma a couple of years ago, and I’m hopeful more dogs and cats — among other animals — can pick out their families soon. Between 5-7 million potential pets go into shelters every year, according to the ASPCA, and unfortunately more than half of these are killed because of overcrowding issues at those shelters. Thirty-nine potential pets are waiting at Gastineau Humane Society, as of Sunday evening. If you’d like to see if one of those animals will pick you out, call GHS at 789-0260 to learn more.
I’m hopeful this column won’t be read as a downer. If it can instead be taken as a boost, uplifting the vast majority of us to realize our condition is pretty good — all things considered — I’ll be thankful. Please enjoy your turkey, football and family this Thursday.
• Ward is the Deputy Managing Editor of the Juneau Empire. The views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Empire’s Editorial Board.