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Giving thanks is the right thing to do

The other day, I saw my first Salvation Army bell ringer of the holiday season, which, combined with what tomorrow represents, reminded me once again how much I have to be thankful for.

Over the years, I have been richly blessed, and I've made a promise not to forget how fortunate I am.

There's the usual stuff, being thankful for the opportunity to live in the United States of America. Taking a look at what's been happening around the globe, I'm more convinced than ever that this is the greatest country in the world. But the blessings get personal. When I graduated from high school, I was able to get into the college of my choice. Not everyone gets that chance. The friends that came into my life, I now realize, are like gold, to be treasured. Good friends, unlike mere acquaintances, are a divine gift. They make life richer. The bad and painful experiences, along with the sweet and happy memories, are also a blessing.

The painful experiences made me stronger spiritually, emotionally and psychologically, and they taught me valuable lessons in life. Knowing I have true friends, who have gone through good and bad times with me, who accept me as I am without judgment, is a reassuring feeling.

I am thankful I have direction in my life, and that I have learned, through trial and error, how to apply the Scriptures to my life. I am thankful for the friendships I have made through churches I have been a member of, both past and present. Those experiences and relationships, I now know, were divine blessings.

I can't say often enough how thankful I am for my current family. Growing up, my family began to drift apart, especially after my father passed away when I was 9 years old. Family life was just not the same, until I became a Baldowski. Only then did I begin to appreciate how close family relationships are a blessing. And speaking of major blessings sent into my life from above, my husband and son are two of the biggest.

Now back to the Salvation Army. A few years ago, when I found myself out of work just before Thanksgiving, and my unemployment benefits were exhausted, I was desperately casting about for some sort of work to bring in a paycheck. I happened to drive by a Salvation Army, and saw a help wanted sign. I immediately dismissed the idea of working for them, but then reconsidered.

To make a long story short, I found myself a job as a bell ringer. I had seen them before, during the Christmas season, but until you actually do the job, you have no idea what it's like. I worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, and came home late every night, cold, tired and with throbbing feet.

But it gave me a chance to do some serious people watching, and it gave me new insights into what makes people tick. It also gave me an insider's view of the Salvation Army, and a new respect for the organization and how hard the individuals work. That was also a blessing, and that is why I will always drop money into that red kettle every time I see a bell ringer.

Looking back over my life, I see a pattern, one that reveals that whenever I find myself in dire straits, a blessing drops into my lap -- when I need it most. I feel rather unworthy, but I will continue to give thanks for these past, present and future blessings for the rest of my life.

I also give thanks for the huge repast I know will be spread out before me tomorrow. So I'll make a beeline for the sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing and gravy, because by then, I'll be starved.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.