Yes, we’re still thankful

Thankful? Two wars continue overseas, the economy is as uncertain as Lindsay Lohan’s sexual orientation, the only jobs around seem to be ones that have disappeared and ones that eventually will, and foreclosures are making Southern Nevada neighborhoods look like deserted Hollywood backlots.

Right. And a happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

But try, just for a moment, to step back from everything that’s going wrong in our particular corner of the universe and think, instead, about what’s going right.

We asked a variety of Southern Nevadans what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving. And, from their responses, we derive this notion: This year’s otherwise dismal day of thanks might be an opportune time for developing a renewed appreciation for the small, but hugely important, blessings we’re usually too busy to think about.

“I think, whatever’s going on, there’s always more to be thankful for than not be thankful for,” offers Las Vegas artist Jennifer Main.

Her friends. Recent aunthood. Even the ability, Main says, to “do what I love for a living.”

Most of all, Main says, she’s thankful for her family.

The trick is to “stay thankful for the simple things that don’t change so much,” she explains. “When money starts disappearing you kind of look at what’s important, and I think what it comes down to is family.”

Crystal Williams of Las Vegas suspects that we often try to find happiness in material things. But, Williams, a criminal justice major at the College of Southern Nevada, numbers among her greatest blessings “my family and friends who have always been there for me.”

Nicholas Mann would agree. Mann, also a College of Southern Nevada student, is most thankful this Thanksgiving for his 2-month-old son.

Nathan Ko Rosales Mann “changed my whole life,” Mann says, and he’s thankful that he now has a chance to provide “a good life for my son.”

Nani Garrett of Las Vegas works as an administrative assistant for a dialysis provider and is attending college to become a registered nurse. “I’m just grateful that I go to school, I’ve got a job and my kids are healthy,” she says. “What more can I ask for?

“My mother always told me that there’s always somebody else worse off than you are. So you have to be grateful for the things you have and thank God and just go on, because it could be worse.”

Danielle Wilson of Las Vegas is thankful that she’s able to pursue her dreams through education. Wilson recently earned an associate’s degree and now plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical technology.

On the other hand, Wilson also lost a job recently because of budget cutbacks. “But I’m optimistic,” she says. “They still have job fairs and there are still stores opening up.”

When times get hard, “you just go back to the basics,” Wilson says, and you have “just got to go back to what makes you happy.”

The Rev. David Wobrock of First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is thankful that, when bad times inevitably arrive, faith doesn’t leave.

It’s always easier to be grateful “when you’ve got a job and you’ve got a home and you’ve got food on the table,” he says, but faith enables one to “be thankful no matter what the circumstances are.”

Heather Murren, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Nevada Cancer Institute, believes that “we have much to be grateful for irrespective of the particular moment in time.”

Good health. Freedom. Small kindnesses given and received. Even, Murren says, a sense of humor, and “the ability to laugh no matter how tough it may be.”

Todd Jones, chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, finds himself thankful this year for what didn’t happen.

“Bad things that could well have happened that everyone often worries about have not happened, like a terrorist attack in Las Vegas or a major earthquake,” he says. “None of that came to pass and it could have.

“The other thing I’m feeling very good about is that, at this moment, the world seems to be looking up to the United States, rather than disparaging it. And that’s rare.”

Speaking of which, Mary Lee Fortner of Las Vegas is thankful that “we live in this country.”

There are “a lot of wonderful people here who do the right thing and make things better for other people,” she says, and, if you examine the balance sheet, Americans are blessed with more good than bad.

“Sometimes we have to take the bad with the good,” Fortner adds. “But, most of the time, we take the good with a little bit of the bad.”

In addition, Fortner says, “I’m thankful for our armed forces that keep us safe. God bless them.”

Col. David Belote would appreciate that. Belote, 99th Air Base Wing commander at Nellis Air Force Base, says he’s thankful, first, that “I have a job I would do for free.

“I can’t believe I get paid to come to work here at Nellis, and it’s primarily because I have the incredible good fortune of commanding about 4,000 patriots, geniuses and warriors who are all about being a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Belote also is thankful that “we have this great country, and every single one of us can be part of the political system and every single one of us can make our voice heard.”

Belote served in Iraq during that country’s January 2005 elections and saw firsthand how, despite threats of death and violence, nearly 60 percent of Iraqis chose to cast ballots.

“To me, that has always been a fascinating example of what the right to vote means,” Belote says. “I was incredibly proud of my countrymen to see the huge numbers who turned out to vote in the recent presidential election.”

Belote adds, too, that he’s thankful for and proud of the nearly 1,200 servicemen and servicewomen from the Las Vegas Valley who will be “in harm’s way this Thanksgiving, and I ask all of the men and women in Las Vegas to keep them in their prayers.”

Still, finding fodder for thanks sometimes can be difficult. John O’Connell of Las Vegas lost his job a month ago and, while being between jobs at Thanksgiving isn’t ideal, “I just try to stay positive.

“I keep thinking there has to be a reason for this, and the only reason I could think of is there is a better opportunity available out there that I wouldn’t have seen because I wouldn’t have been looking for it,” O’Connell says.

“I learned long ago stuff happens for a reason. You might not know it, you might find out later, you might not ever know why. But stuff happens for a reason.”

And, for a final dose of perspective, we go to Dave Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV.

“My philosophy,” Schwartz offers, “is that if, at the end of the day, you’re not in jail or in a hospital, you’ve had a pretty good day no matter what else happened to you.

“That’s my philosophy,” he says. “And that’s probably why I’m not a philosopher.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.

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