With thanksgiving

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In any given year, the reality of life is that one enjoys both blessing and hardship, triumph and defeats.
    Many times it is easier to recount the struggles, than to focus on the blessings. Let this week provide the impetus to focus on the blessings, even as our community walks through the hardships of tragedy.
    This past year has certainly yielded its own crop of tragedy and hardship—both locally and nationally. We have experienced that first-hand this past week in the Staunton River community. Our thoughts, prayers and hearts go out to the families, friends and entire community as they mourn the loss of the tragedies of this past week.
    Nationally there have been hardships as well.
    The economy continues to struggle; millions are without jobs. Hurricane Sandy cut a path of destruction up the East Coast leaving homes, communities and lives lost in its wake.
    Entire communities and cities have had their foundations shaken; in some cases those communities were literally destroyed.
    As a nation at war our military comes back to their families, many affected physically and emotionally because of their sacrifice to this nation. To them we offer our most sincere thanks, and our fervent prayers for their recovery.
    But in the midst of all those struggles, and countless more individuals have faced, rest the blessings which we must not forget. As a nation of abundance, there have been those that have reached out during the times of tragedy to those in need. Some of those to a neighbor next door; some to those they did not know in cities miles away.
    This is a tradition needed now, more than ever.
    We are a nation that has come through a tough, and sometimes bitter, election.
    While the temptation is to let this divide us, instead it should be our rallying point for uniting. What an awesome privilege we have to participate in such a process; to live in such a country as this. To this, we can all be thankful.
    Years ago, our forefathers gathered with friends and neighbors to share in thanks to God for the blessings of that year — hard as it had been to endure. Throughout the years that tradition has continued, even in times of great struggle. Even in times of war.
    In the winter of 1777 Gen. George Washington and his army, having suffered distressing misfortune, stopped near Valley Forge, Pa., to give thanks to God. In the midst of that difficulty, by giving thanks, they found the hope they needed to persevere. That hope would eventually yield victory.
    Twelve years later, in 1789, as this nation’s first president, Washington made his first Thanksgiving proclamation, urging “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God” and stated that the day of thanksgiving should be “devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all good that was, that is, or that will be.”
    In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of yearly presidential Thanksgiving proclamations. Having just witnessed some 60,000 lives lost at Gettysburg, Lincoln wrote that in the midst of the time of war, the nation needed to acknowledge its abundant blessings, stating that they “cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
    Throughout the years, presidents who have followed have continued to make such proclamations. The proclamations, however, mean little if not followed.
    This week, as you gather with family and friends, don’t forget to count the blessings that you, your family and this nation, enjoy.
    Last year, President Obama said, in part, in his Thanksgiving proclamation:
    “In times of adversity and times of plenty, we have lifted our hearts by giving humble thanks for the blessings we have received and for those who bring meaning to our lives. Today, let us offer gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices, and keep in our thoughts the families who save an empty seat at the table for a loved one stationed in harm’s way. And as members of our American family make do with less, let us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand.
    “As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.”
    We have much to be thankful for; and much to share with one another.