America is a place where you can start over.
Those are not my words, actually. Those are the words of an acquaintance who shared a little of her life story as we walked with our daughters from a Little Rock ice skating rink to our cars. She asked that her name and country of origin be withheld for fear of offending her immigrant community.
The woman is in America legally and wants it to be permanent. She loves it here. As a child, she grew up a member of an underground church. She and her family have been in the country about seven years, so it’s the only home her daughter really knows. They could have a tolerable life in their homeland now, but times are tough there, unemployment is high, and opportunities are limited. It’s too much of a "one hand washes the other" society where you have to know someone to get a job. She and her husband are looking for a sponsor here so they can put down roots.
Compare her desire to stay in the United States with comments made lately by people who, unlike her, were born here. It’s becoming a habit for a few Americans to issue empty threats to flee to Canada if their presidential candidate loses. Almost all decide to stay. Remember all that talk last week about those people clicking on White House petitions asking for their states to secede? Funny how that’s already a non-story.
It is good that Thanksgiving and Election Day occur in the same month. We who have lived here our entire lives need to be reminded of what my immigrant friend figured out on her own – that this is a blessed place, and we are blessed to be here.
Let’s review what we’ve recently been a part of: The president of the United States – supposedly "the leader of free world" – just spent much of the past year asking average Americans to let him keep his job. His rival spent even more time asking to be given the job.
The most significant aspect of the election was not who won. It’s that the election occurred at all. That’s rare throughout human history, especially compared to the other ways power has been "earned" – by conquest, for example, or by inheritance.
That distinction is just one of many blessings we should be thanking God for three weeks after the election. The right to thank Him freely, or not, is another. So was that big meal most of us ate on Thursday, most of us surrounded by loved ones in warm, dry homes.
In recent years, this very American holiday has gained a nickname, "Turkey Day," which distorts the day’s purpose. Nov. 22 was not supposed to be a day to stuff ourselves with turkey, which is available abundantly these days. It was a day to celebrate our freedoms and prosperity, not our excesses; to be thankful to the Giver, and not so focused on the gifts.
That doesn’t mean problems should be ignored – our personal ones or the country’s. It just means maybe we all should stop complaining so darn much. My wife the other day, after a long phone conversation with a troubled soul, remarked that it’s impossible for a person to climb out of a pit if they don’t have a grateful heart because then they don’t have anything positive to work toward. The same could be said for a society. A country can’t be great and grouchy for long.
My immigrant acquaintance was not planning on celebrating Turkey Day. She, her husband and daughter were celebrating Thanksgiving with their church family – the only family that’s available because they left their biological one across the ocean to come here.
For the rest of us who might have rushed through a pre-meal prayer so we could dig in, it’s not too late to make today, or every day, a time of thanks-giving. This is, after all, a place where you can start over.
Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. His blog — Independent Arkansas — is linked at arkansasnews.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org