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OPINION: Now, more than ever, we need to remember feelings of gratitude

November 17th, 2017 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

It's almost Thanksgiving, which, next to Halloween, is my favorite holiday. It's hard to rival the imaginative fun of Halloween, not to mention the facepaint. But a holiday all about being thankful? And food? What's not to love?

It's pretty easy to be thankful when things are going well in our lives, our state and our country. It's not as easy when there is conflict and struggle.

There's no shortage of any of that right now. Our nation continues to spiral into divisiveness that seems long on dogma and short on logic, while controversy erodes our nation's leaders' ability to do anything productive. Alaska seems to be following suit, with our state leaders currently deadlocked in special session and getting nowhere fast. That doesn't bode well for the coming regular session, during which we all hope that the legislators will be able to come up with a real solution to our state's fiscal struggle before our state's economy erodes beyond repair.

The impact of all this party politics is starting to show. Programs that used to keep our most vulnerable populations safe are being cut, and the fallout from those cuts will be with us for years to come. It's enough to send most anyone into a tirade, but that's not the solution. As anyone who has been in an argument knows, the louder and more obstinate you get, the less likely anything productive will come out of it.

Want to know what the solution is? Thanksgiving, that's what; only not just for one turkey-infused day of the year. This week, a young woman who was new to town posted on a community forum page about her struggle to get her heater working with limited funds. She was pregnant, on light duty, and her partner was working out of town.

Literally within hours, there were dozens of posts from people wanting to help. They asked what code her Toyo stove was blinking, and offered dozens of diagnostic and fixit tips. No question, Alaskans know their Toyos and more than a few of them are do-it-yourself fixers. She also had a wood stove, but wasn't able to split the wood for it. Within an hour, a neighbor had dropped off wood and helped start the fire. They brought some halibut, too, of course.

No one asked who she voted for a year ago or whether she supported offshore drilling or a state income tax. They saw a community member in need during a cold snap and immediately sprang into action. If you are new to Alaska, this kind of outpouring might come as a surprise. Most of us who have been here a while have been on one end or the other of the incredible generosity that makes Alaska the best place to live — even when it is cold and dark.

And even if you aren't new to the state, all this divisiveness we have felt nationally and on a state level might leave you feeling like the Alaska community is fractured. More than a few people commented about how great it was that so many people sprang into action to help this family in need immediately. It was very comforting to see that energy was still alive and well. We do, indeed, have a lot to be thankful for, and always have in this state and this nation. We just seem to have forgotten.

So the next time you start going down a rabbit hole of self pity and despair over the current state of affairs, catch yourself. While it is important to stay informed, to vote and to make your opinion known to your elected officials locally, in Juneau and Washington, it is also important to keep all this in perspective.

Most of us have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep. Most of us are able to care for our children, acquire an education and have opportunities that much of the world would walk across a burning desert to have. It is not perfect, but few things are. We all have a lot to be thankful for, and when we choose to focus on those things, the tone of it all changes. If it takes a day of the year to be reminded of that, so be it. But now more than ever, we need to keep that gratitude going even after the holiday has passed.

That simple shift in perspective could be the catalyst that starts things rolling in the right direction again.


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