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Counting Our Blessings

POSTED November 24, 2009 2:52 p.m.

Now is as good a time as any — actually, probably the best since it’s tradition — to take stock of your situation and offer thanks.

While it may be true that a number of people don’t feel there’s much to be thankful for this year, given the state of the economy, there is always something that is worth being thankful for.

And even though voter turnout was dismal in the latest election, Nov. 3, shouldn’t we all give a little nod of thanks that we have the ability to go to the polls? That our leaders are not dictated to us and that we have a choice when we step into the voting booth. Whether or not we choose to exercise it, that right exists and that is something to give thanks for.

In fact, how about being thankful for living in a country that allows us to be individuals? That allows for creative expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. We can go to whatever church we choose and do not have to fear sharing our beliefs.

On more of a community level, we can be thankful that our communities of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon work together to meet the needs of those less fortunate.

Both Oakdale and Escalon will host Community Thanksgiving dinners on Thursday, Nov. 26 so that people who might not otherwise have anywhere to go for the holiday — or the means to provide a hot holiday meal — can share in the spirit of the season together. Oakdale’s dinner at the Gene Bianchi Community Center expects to feed upwards of a thousand people this year. They have more volunteers than they need to cook, serve, clean up and deliver meals. What a blessing it is to put the word out that “help is needed” and get an overwhelming response from your community.

People are cooking turkeys all over town, volunteering their ovens and labor to make sure there is enough meat to go around on turkey day, supplemented by the rest of the holiday trimmings.

For Escalon residents, it is the same idea, with the Community Center serving as the gathering place for the holiday meal on Thursday. Numbering a couple hundred served and many meals home-delivered to the elderly and shut-ins, the homestyle Thanksgiving dinner is served up to all at no cost. Volunteers even take ‘orders’ so if you want all white meat and extra cranberry sauce, that’s what you get.

One of the best things about these holiday meals is that everyone gets involved, including local youngsters. By getting the kids involved in serving at an early age, whether it’s pouring water or washing dishes, or maybe just greeting someone at the door with a smile, they are learning a valuable lesson.

They are finding the value in service work, discovering how good it feels inside to be helpful to someone else. There’s no greater feeling than doing something just because it will benefit another.

Riverbank volunteers have been busy at the food cupboard there, getting the Thanksgiving baskets packed up and ready for the big day.

Schools also typically get in on the act as well, from collecting cans for local food cupboards to putting together baskets of full holiday meals to deliver to less fortunate families in our communities.

This is a time when we can take stock of the things we have around us that we are thankful for. So take a moment to put those other things — such as the unemployment rate and the economy — on the back burner and focus on what is in front of you this holiday. The love of family, the company of good friends, a warm meal to share … celebrate the gifts you have and enjoy the holiday season.

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