Giving thanks, but for what?

Ben McFiggins, right, and Robbie Shumaker, center, join other kindergartners in line for a feast Nov. 20 during a Thanksgiving celebration at St. Patrick School in Owego, N.Y. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

Thanksgiving is upon us.  But it's often hard to know these days how to give thanks -- or for what.  

When I think about the world, crises of all kinds arise in mind: the grisly attacks by the Islamic State group in the Middle East and the prospect of further violence; the Ebola epidemic in Africa; the racism all too prevalent in our urban police forces, as evidenced in the killing of young black men; the thousands of women and children who cross our southern border to escape violence and poverty in Central America and the often-negative reaction here in our "nation of immigrants"; the election of members of Congress who refuse to wake up to the realities of climate change. And that just scratches the surface.

But after a few minutes, I begin to recall the many reasons we do have to give thanks this year. First, there is Pope Francis. He's far from perfect (and certainly not a feminist), but he's the best we've seen since Pope John XXIII, and he's captured the world's attention with his simplicity of life and his concern for the "least of these."  

Then there are those working for justice and peace in our world: the 2,000-plus who demonstrated at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas) in Georgia; the medical workers volunteering to go to West Africa to treat Ebola victims; the religious houses that provide sanctuary for new immigrants; the hundreds of thousands who marched in September in the People's Climate March in New York City.

And then there are those working tirelessly for Catholic reform: Call To Action, FutureChurch, the Women's Ordination Conference, WATER, CORPUS, DignityUSA, New Ways Ministry, Catholics Speak Out, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, and so many more.

And in my line of work, there are those who diligently work to improve interfaith relations, including the Dalai Lama, the soon-to-be-retired Rev. Welton Gaddy, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal church, scholar Karen Armstrong, Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed, Rabbi David Saperstein, and Pope Francis himself.

Add to all that family, friends and co-workers, and the world doesn't seem as awful as the newscasts would have it!

Happy Thanksgiving to all NCR readers!

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