Across Kansas this week you will find tables piled high with turkeys, pies and enough side dishes to satisfy all the relatives expected for Thanksgiving dinner.
Millions of Americans will gather in warm houses and eat more than they should to show their gratitude for what God has provided to them and their families. Even if you don’t have a big celebration planned with family or friends, there is plenty for which Kansans should be thankful.
It’s good to take a few minutes to think about those things, in contrast to TV news about crime or talk shows full of political rage. It’s good to set aside the social media posts that are insulting, snarky or bitter.
Spending a few minutes thinking about what’s right with our world returns a sense of balance and perspective.
For example, whether your Thanksgiving menu consists of a feast or a sandwich, we can be grateful that food in the United States is more plentiful, safer and cheaper than just about any place on the planet.
Since 1960, Americans’ cost of feeding their families has dropped from 17.5 percent of household income to 9.6 percent. That figure has stayed about the same for several years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One big reason is that Americans are eating more meals bought or consumed outside the home, rather than cooking themselves.
Grocery store prices, in comparison, actually fell a bit in the second quarter of 2017, compared to 2016, mostly because of lower egg and meat prices. And while the prices for specific items — such as eggs, beef or lemons — can spike, overall food prices are relatively stable, a result of the prodigious production of farmers throughout the Americas.
Here are other things that Kansans might stop to give thanks for:
• Our sunsets and sunrises.
Kansas at dusk or dawn is often the most beautiful part of the day.
Sunrises and sunsets can bring explosions of reds and orange. Or they might unfold with serene pinks and yellows subtly lighting an endless horizon in western Kansas.
There’s no need to read big deep meanings into the show. Just enjoy.
• Our justice system.
It’s flawed and subject to corruption, but when you look around the world, you appreciate the protections included in our U.S. Constitution. As some of our politicians and officials ridicule and demean our system of justice, we should be mindful of the importance of respecting both the law and the courts’ interpretation of those laws.
• Our education system.
It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong with schools, whether it’s how the school calendar is crafted, the curriculum or the quality of instruction provided by particular teachers. But schools also should be cheered for helping so many Kansas kids succeed in life.
Schools don’t do it alone and they aren’t above criticism, but they get a lot more right than they get wrong.
• America’s volunteers.
Across Kansas, hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, friends and relatives volunteer to make life better for others.
Across the United States, more than 62 million adults — just under 25 percent — of Americans volunteer through an organization.
They deliver meals to people who can’t easily leave home.
They tutor kids who need help with math or reading.
They perform a thousand tasks — from accounting to mowing — for their churches and nonprofit organizations.
They give blood.
The ways in which volunteers enrich our lives and our nation have become so common that we hardly notice. They exemplify what really makes our country great.
• Our mainstream media.
Much maligned and far from perfect, newspapers and their reporters are still the best source of information about our communities.
We live in an era in which unprecedented amounts of information are available. Unfortunately, much of the information is inaccurate or misleading.
Yes, newspapers do make mistakes, but in Kansas and across America, their record is far superior to the records of their critics. And newspapers undoubtedly are superior to the anonymous tripe shared on social media.
Newspapers make it easier to know and understand what’s happening in your community, your state and your country.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.