Thanksgiving: The Right Time to Count Your Blessings

Your health: You have aches. You have pains. You may have illness and infirmity. But you also have time every day when you can enjoy yourself and the company of the people you love and are loved by. Be thankful for that. Your wealth: You haven’t hit the Forbes list of wealthiest humans, but you have enough money to put clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and food in your stomach.

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts,” H.U. Westermayer reminds us. “No Americans have been more impoverished than these, who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” However meager your financial assets are now, they greatly exceed those of the great majority of the world’s population. Say “thank you” for that. Your wisdom: You understand the most important things.

You realize that of the gifts of life, life itself — and particularly a life without pain — is the most precious. Next to that is the love you share with friends and family members whose company you cherish. And next to that is the potential of your imagination — your innate and inalienable ability to do what you want with your mind, which is, after all, where your life is located. Next to your life, your health, your personal relationships, and your imagination, you have your work to be thankful for — the intellectual and emotional challenges that make your day exciting. And then somewhere below that are all those great things money can buy. So you can be thankful for them too.

I have a friend who is battling prostate cancer. Despite consistently bad medical reports, he spends no time cursing his fate, complaining about his circumstances, or expressing gloominess of any kind. He is upbeat, energetic, full of good ideas, and humblingly solicitous of my health and happiness. I asked him recently how he manages to keep such a positive perspective on his life. He told me that at some point in dealing with his illness he came to realize that he had no control over what had happened to him and that feeling bad about it would do him no good. He understood that he had a choice to make every day when he woke up: He could be miserable or he could feel good. He chooses to feel good because it is the only choice that makes the day worth going through.

“Recognizing the preciousness of every day as I do now,” he said, “I’d much rather be positive and get the benefit of it. “Besides,” he added, “when I think back on my life, of all the things I’ve done, the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, and the love I’ve enjoyed, I can’t feel anything but grateful.” In his book “Lucky Man” actor Michael J. Fox tells us that he is a better, happier person today than he was before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He’s not the only person with a debilitating and/or incurable disease who feels that way. Sometimes, it takes adversity to appreciate your blessings. It would be much better to start appreciating them now.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]