CornucopiaWow, what a year this has been! I traditionally fill this space at Thanksgiving time with the same sort of thoughts you will see today. I will not dwell on the fact that it seems the last celebration was about six months ago, but that is just my relative age catching up with me.

We seem to be experiencing a tearing of the national fabric if you get all of your news on screen. Yet I truly believe most of us in the middle—the middle class, middle of the country, or middle of the political spectrum—are still thankful to God for the intangibles we have, not just our stuff. It is not too trite to remind ourselves that the most important things are not things.

Thousands of our fellow citizens are experiencing (or recently have) the loss of almost everything tangible they had before the fire, the hurricane, the tornado. Karen and I spent a couple of nights in Paradise, California two weeks ago. Three mornings after we left on our journey north into Oregon, the bed and bedroom we slept in were gone in a matter of minutes.

Thankfully, my cousins got the word that Thursday morning. They left quickly before the two roads down the foothills were jammed with vehicles. They now bring shudders to us as we see their metal skeletons in various shades of gray and white and imagine the terror of their owners.

The genealogies, sentimental keepsakes, plus the more easily replaceable furnishings evaporated into the smoke that still fills the California breadbasket farmland. Our hearts hurt for that, but how much more for the families of those who remained trapped in houses or autos, unable to even attempt an escape.

However, most of us are in reasonably good health, have too much to eat, have a car for every adult in our household (even if it is more the bank’s than ours), but we still lack a peace and contentment for which we yearn. Some of us have not yet learned that thing about the things.

But I am also convinced that we in the United States share a common characteristic. Even if I have everything going for me with nothing of any great importance about which to complain, I often ache with compassion for those who are hurting around me. And in this age of worldwide media, everyone on the planet looks to be around me.

This week I have seen some in Portland, apparently so moved by some emotion, they think tearing up the town is necessary to cause change. I am thankful I know so many of you who instead share generously of your effort in time and your resources in money in strategic ways to alleviate hunger, disease, social ills from our families’ disintegration, or positively by promoting the arts and public beauty, things that restore our souls and inspire us.

This is not now and never will be a perfect world in its present state. I believe there is a better one to come. In the meantime, our work is to freely, enthusiastically, and effectively help each other grow and develop to personal maturity, peace, and contentment. We engage in that process regardless of our age and regardless of whether there is any compensation. That is my wish and hope for myself as well as for all of you. I will be most happy if I never lose the bent to be sad with others and compelled to try to help them.

For these intangible gifts, I am truly thankful. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.