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A state of 'thanks-living'
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Derek McGinnis had his left leg blown off in Iraq when an improvised explosive device tore a hole in the Humvee in which he was riding. He also lost an eye in the attack and sustained head trauma.

He woke up not knowing what happened, only that he was racked with pain and missing body parts. As the gravity of his physical situation settled in, Derek grew despondent. He was no longer than physical specimen that he was before arriving in Fallujah. He was thrust into a deep depression, and once suggested that his wife leave him as he was "no good" anymore. With the prospects of many years of recovery and rehabilitation ahead - hard work - Derek was certain that life was over.

But he's around today as a restored human being. I know because I shook his hand on Sunday.

Why the turn around? Why the changed man? When Derek learned that his wife was pregnant, he resolved that he would have something for which to live. It wasn't easy - and still isn't - but today Derek McGinnis can run, surf and swim with the help of a prosthetic leg. He has a renewed faith in the God who saved him.

His life is characterized by "thanksliving," or the daily practice of counting blessings, not recounting the curses.

McGinnis relates a poignant moment of his life in his book, "Exit Wounds." Upon his release from an East Coast military hospital, one of the first things Derek wanted to do was visit a Starbucks as a civilian. As he ordered his drink, thankful that he was alive and home in the greatest nation on earth, he listened to a customer's pathetic whine about the cream that was floating atop her drink. Apparently she went on and on, unaware that the veteran listening to her and been to hell and back. Derek believes that many Americans are like her - spoiled by pleasures with no real gratitude or thankfulness as to what we have been blessed.

I am afraid that I can be like that, too. But I'm trying to be among those who have an attitude of gratitude because I am sure that's the key to being happy.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and many are in circumstances that not ideal. Millions are without jobs and many have lost their homes. Indeed foreclosures continue to hit Ceres hard. The future of the economy and the mismanagement of the state and country is enough to make life seem especially gloomy.

But if we view our circumstances differently, it would change our outlook. Derek McGinnis once was asking God why him. Of all the people on the battlefield, why did the bomb hit his truck and tear into his flesh? But the Derek McGinnis I saw this week had a change perspective. He now asks God, "Why have you chosen to bless me in this way?" Today he is helping other servicemen and their families to deal with injury and death. And he feels privileged to do so.

One sentence that he said has stuck with me: "I am so blessed to be vertical." We should all be so ready and able to echo his sentiments of thankfulness. We are living!

Sure, he's missing a leg. But he's happy that he can bound around on an artificial leg. At least he can get on a surfboard and feel the sting of the ocean spray in his face. One eye doesn't work. At least he has a good eye to see the faces of his wife and children.

It takes work to be so genuinely grateful, especially when what we've possessed has been stripped from us.

After a late Monday night of work at the Courier and an early rise for a day of production, I groaned to my wife that it seemed like I was working more and more for less and less. She stopped me and reminded me that at least I have a job to go to. I quickly retreated down the hall, ashamed that I allowed complaining to creep in so quickly.

Each Christmas I am comforted by a song when I view "White Christmas," in which Bing Crosby croons out the words to "Counting My Blessings." Among them are, "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep And I fall asleep counting my blessings. When mybankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all ... and I fall asleep counting my blessings."

Being the spoiled Starbucks complainer is a very becoming state of being. May we all make it our goal to thank God for what we have and live in a perpetual state of thanksliving.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at