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Count your Blessings
read in Macedonian


Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America.  It is a national holiday celebrated by Americans of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, colors, religions and creeds.  It is a day in which most businesses are closed, when families and friends gather together for a large, sumptuous and satisfying afternoon meal, when college sports teams play and most importantly, when people give thanks for what they have.   

Our Canadian friends also celebrate Thanksgiving – the second Monday in October, whereas we celebrate the last Thursday in November – but most other countries do not have a day set aside for celebrating and giving thanks.  Perhaps each country should set aside a day to give thanks. 

One of the greatest American Presidents – Abraham Lincoln – issued a national proclamation in 1863 affirming that a national “day of Thanksgiving and Praise” to God be set aside.  It’s important to remember that in 1863 America was in the middle of our Civil War.  Lincoln, recognizing the need to bring together all Americans (the country was divided between the North and the South) issued this proclamation to first, codify and celebrate an American tradition that had been celebrated in many different ways for many years before and second, to try to bring Americans together at the most difficult time in our nation’s history. 

While enumerating all of the blessings and gifts that had been given to the United States and the American people through its history, Lincoln wrote:  

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” 

As we prepare to close out 2011 and look back, it seems that our world has gone mad.  And in many ways, it has.  The EU (as well as the rest of Europe) faces not just an existential threat, but a very real one as well due to the sovereign debt crisis.  The EU – as it currently exists – will probably not survive.  The Arab Spring has turned into an Arab Fall with no clear end in sight – democracy or theocracy?  China continues to rise, Iran continues to pursue its nuclear weapons program threatening Israel and her neighbors, Pakistan continues to be one of the most dangerous countries on earth and questions are arising as to whether or not Afghanistan and Iraq will become failed states or at least minimal democracies.  Russia slides toward more authoritarianism and Africa, as a whole, muddles through.  Here in the United States, we face our own debt and budget crisis and thousands of protestors around the country continue to claim that capitalism is “evil” while failing to understand anything about it to begin with. 

It’s easy, when you look at the picture above, to become discouraged and disheartened.  So instead of focusing on what a terrible state of affairs we find ourselves in, focus, instead, on your blessings.  There is an old American hymn from 1897 titled “Count Your Blessings.”  Part of the chorus goes like this: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” 

So as we close out 2011 and look to 2012, I challenge you to count your many blessings.  I count among my many blessings family, friends, health, a job, a home, the fact that I live in a Republic that practices capitalism (despite the many faults of both systems), and the love of God.  I count among my many blessings the fact that over 15 years ago I was given an opportunity to live and work in a small faraway country called Macedonia and that, because the people were friendly and hospitable and because the land was beautiful, I was able to make it my home for many years.  I count among my many blessings that I have made lifelong friends in Macedonia – family really – and that I have been able to give back to Macedonia and the Macedonians in many ways because I have been given so much. 

Even if you are going through difficult times – and what person does not go through difficult times at some point? – count your blessings.  As you gather with family and friends throughout this week – whether you are in Macedonia, the United States, Canada, Australia, or somewhere else and whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not – ask each other: what are you thankful for?  And count your blessings.

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Jason Miko
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