It was 14 years ago that I enjoyed the most meaningful Thanksgiving of my life. I was at the Mormon Missionary Training Center (MTC) preparing for my two-year assignment to Chile. Normally the daily schedule at the MTC was chalked full of Spanish and religious classes but for whatever reason, Thanksgiving was a relatively laid back day. Instead of attending classes, we were instructed to get up early in the morning and for a full two hours list all of the blessings we were thankful for in our lives. It was a wonderful experience that made the Thanksgiving of 1997 the best I have ever had.
And today I would like to rekindle that spirit of gratitude by spending a couple of hours listing the things I am grateful for. One of the goals of this blog is to serve as a personal journal of sorts. I hope that one day my posterity might learn more about their father, grandfather, great-grandfather by reading these words. With this in mind, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to my posterity.
Perhaps you and I never had the opportunity to meet in life. Perhaps you know very little about me. Heck, maybe you have read some of my material and find me boring, arrogant, etc. That's OK, everyone has their flaws. I know that my life has been FULL of them. But what I do want you to know is that despite all of my imperfections, mistakes, trials, struggles, etc. I have A LOT to be thankful for. For example:
1.) I am grateful for my employment and my wife's employment. The average income in the world (per capita) is $7,000 a year. I have personally seen people (during my time in Chile) who lived on even less. Yet despite their worldly poverty they were some of the happiest people I ever met. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of wealth. I may not be a millionaire but I have what I need...thanks to God.
2.) I am grateful for my marriage. Recent statistics show that roughly 1/2 of all marriages today end in divorce. Now, of course there are instances when divorce is the best option and I certainly mean no disrespect to those who face such difficulties. With that said, I am EXTREMELY grateful for my wife and our marriage. Of course, like any marriage, we have had our ups and downs. By no means are we the fairytale couple. But I am grateful that we are not. The struggle is what has made our bond stronger. If marriage was easy there would be no growth. I am grateful that it has been a growing experience that we have endured together, equally yoked. To my posterity know this: I LOVE YOUR MOTHER/GRANDMOTHER/GREAT-GRANDMOTHER!!! She is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life.
3.) It is estimated that only 9% of the world's population owns a car. I am grateful for both of mine (a 2004 Hyundai and a 2002 Toyota, both of which have over 100,000 miles).
4.) I am grateful for my education. In 2009 I had the opportunity to complete my Master's degree in History. And though I may occasionally complain about the student loans that I had to incur as a result, I am eternally grateful for my education. It is estimated that only 6.7% of the world has even a Bachelor level of education (and only 35% have a high school level education). The percentage of the world with graduate level education is less than 1%. I am grateful to God for being given the circumstances in which I could gain an education. If student loans are my biggest gripe then I need to shut up!
5.) I am grateful for AWESOME parents!!! Roughly 45% of children worldwide grow up in single parent homes. Roughly 40% of (reported) children are the victims of sexual molestation. Millions of children around the world are the victims of violence, slavery and indoctrination. I was fortunate to grow up in a safe, happy, loving home. Yes, my Dad may have died at a relatively young age (53) but big deal! And yes, my parents did "terrible" things like enforce curfews, make me go to church/school, take a bath, brush my teeth, etc. But when compared with the rest of the world, my childhood was literally heaven on earth!
6.) I am grateful for the health of my children. Approximately 30% of all children worldwide die before their 5th birthday, due to poverty, sickness, war etc.
7.) I am grateful for modern medicine in general. Yes, people today complain ad nauseum about health care and its costs but I am guessing that the MILLIONS of humans who lived in ancient/medieval times would literally kill for what we regularly take for granted. Had I been born anytime before the 20th century I would have been dead at 24 (appendicitis). Thank God (literally) for the miracle of modern medicine!
8.) I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States. Yes, my country isn't perfect but it is pretty incredible. She has been a beacon of hope for literally millions who have struggled to get to her shores. God bless America!
9.) I am grateful for my health. It is estimated that 15% of the world's population suffers from a severe disability, 30.9% suffer from diabetes, and 1/6 of the world suffers from hunger-related health issues. Thank you, God for my health!
10.) I am grateful for my children. I have been lucky enough to have two healthy, happy boys who keep my world crazy busy! I am aware that this is a gift from God and I am grateful every day for Jaxson and Zakary being in my life. In addition, I am grateful for my family in general. I have been blessed with 5 killer grandparents, 8 wonderful aunts and uncles, 27 cousins, 4 sister-in-laws, 3 brother-in-laws, a wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law and a countless number of others I cannot remember off the top of my head.
11.) I am grateful for the faith of my fathers. I am grateful for my great-great-grandfather, James H. Hart, who sailed to America to join the Mormon movement. I am grateful for his sacrifice in moving west, which was no small feat. I am grateful for Arthur Hart (my great-grandfather) who continued strong in his faith. I am grateful for my grandfather, Wendell Hart, who passed on to his children (my dad, Alan being among them) the important lessons of faith and devotion to God, who in turn passed those lessons to my brothers and I. I hope to leave an equal legacy for my posterity.
12.) I am grateful that I can read, hear, see, smell, walk, talk, laugh, cry, etc.
13.) I am grateful for the Internet and technology in general. Yes, I am grateful for my fair little blog! =)
14.) I am grateful for the charity of others. Like Ann Frank, I too agree that "most people are really good at heart."
15.) I am grateful for Barack Obama, George W. Bush, etc. Too often people have a field day with politicians. The hate-filled rhetoric has simply gone too far these days. I am grateful for the election process in which I can have a say in my government. Yes, my government may not be perfect but I am grateful for men and women who are willing to put themselves out there and do the best they can.
16.) I am grateful for the talents of others. I cannot sing or play an instrument. I can't paint a beautiful painting. I can't write a powerful novel. Thanks to all who can!
17.) I am grateful for peace and quiet. Those rare opportunities when one can sit in peace and meditate on nothing is a blessing to be sure.
18.) I am grateful for the beauty of Colorado. I love this state!
19.) I am grateful for the wonder of all of God's creations. The majesty and awesome immensity of the universe (and our extremely small mark on it) reveal just how incredible God is. Once could ponder the vastness of space for an entire life and barely scratch its surface. God's playground is a marvel beyond man's comprehension.
20.) I am grateful for Jesus Christ. The scripture, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16) should have special meaning for all of us on this day (and every day for that matter). I am grateful for the perfect example that was the life of Jesus Christ. I realize that not everyone believes in Jesus (that's OK, he believes in you) but even if you reject his divinity I cannot think of a better example of human goodness. Thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ!
Ok, my two hours are up. This list could, of course, go on forever. In the end, instead of complaining, whining and getting bitter about the things we don't like about our lives, try counting your blessings. The list is quite impressive.