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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.