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Appreciating what we all have
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It's Christmas tomorrow.

Some are doing their level best trying to make it a good holiday despite some rather grim financial issues staring them in the face. After all, many have lost homes in 2008 and some are without work. Some in Ceres are barely eking out an existence with paychecks that may not be covering all the expenses of the household.

It's times like this when one needs to go back to revisit the basics and consider what we really have. We really have become accustomed to a country where things have been very good. Americans rarely do without. The poorest of the poor in America have it far better than the poorest of a Third World nation where children have to rummage through the dump heaps to find food and items to sell. I've interviewed countless foreign exchange students who say they're in shock and awe of the plentiful supplies in our grocery stores. And we thought every country was as blessed as ours.

A good friend of mine, Jack Hunter of Hughson, sent me an e-mail recently that gave me food for thought. (He may have stopped teaching for a living but Jack still likes to challenge his friends much the way he challenged his students in Ceres years back.) He started out by introducing the forwarded message with this: "I'll have to keep these things in mind when I feel like complaining about them!"

It was a simple message that really put my mouth in check when I was about to utter some complaint about something.

Here's the message:

"I am thankful:

For the wife who say's it's hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else.

For the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato, because he is home with me and not out at the bars.

For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes because it means she is at home not on the streets.

For taxes I pay because it means I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

For the shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

For the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking and I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

For the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear.

For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been capable of working hard.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive.

And finally, for too much e-mail because it mean I have friends who are thinking of me.

Live well, laugh often, and love with all of your heart!"

You've got the picture. I even was thinking about complaining about having to re-type his message because it was all in caps ... then I remembered, hey, re-typing Jack's message means I have all the fingers on both my hands.

The beauty of the message is that it trains us to look for the positive behind every negative. I realize that someone who may have lost their house may have felt the sting of some elements of Jack's e-mail. But, again, the concept is to find some blessing behind the very thing we're bitter about. Somehow doing this cancels or softens the negative we're dwelling on.

While the gifts under the tree may be less in quantity and quality this year due to the economy, consider this: We have gotten so far away from what this holiday is about. The gifts that we give to each other will be trash one day. What lasts is love. If you think about it, love never fails. Our focus has been on the shopping when it's really about a loving God who delivered the world a Savior in the midst of a dung-fouled stable. Good in the midst of bad.

It's true that we tend to not appreciate what we have, especially when we are faced with wants. But the little exercise suggested by Jack's e-mail will give us all reason to smile in this season of perpetual hope.

God bless us, everyone.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at