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Giving and giving thanks
Scripps Howard News Service


November 21, 2005

Americans have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, at the top of the list - freedom and opportunity. Yet, for too many families, empty chairs around the Thanksgiving table have become as much a staple as the turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie.

War and disasters do not respect holidays.

In many households, the empty chair belongs to a spouse, son or daughter serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. This brings a greater understanding that, for all that we might give thanks for on this day, what truly matters rests in our hearts and in the hearts of those we love.

In some homes, the empty chair reflects not an absence, but the loss, of a loved one, adding poignancy to the gathering. Such sorrow reminds us of the sacrifices made on our behalf and of the duty to country that transcends the material trappings too many people wrap their lives inside.

For other families this year, the empty chair belongs to a loved one lost in the destructive hurricanes and flooding that struck Gulf Coast states. In these devastated areas, Thanksgiving celebrations come bittersweet - a time to be grateful for life, even as the families gathered around the table recall those so suddenly gone.

Despite such tragedies, hope of better times rises as a potent force. We have witnessed, and the world has seen, many times, how Americans emerge from the ravages of war and of disasters with a stronger national character, more aware of the gift of freedom and more willing to help others secure the blessings of liberty we enjoy.

Whether Thanksgiving meals are served with simple or elaborate fare, whether gatherings include dozens of loved ones or only the closest few, we all should bow our heads in prayer or meditation or reflection and remember that, on this day, we celebrate two great attributes of our human spirit: the ability to give and to give thanks.

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Ketchikan, Alaska