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Feeling thankful is sometimes a fight
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Thanksgiving is Thursday.

Personally for me, rotten timing.

I know I should be grateful but I don't feel it. Maybe by Thursday I will have mustered up the right attitude to consider myself worthy of this great American institution.

It's felt like a rotten year and personally it worsened last month.

I'll spare you the drama, but let's say I've lost some dear people in my life in one way or another. This month a friend of over 22 years - and three years younger than I - was claimed by a rude and sudden heart attack while watching TV in her living room. I've spent several hours being at her husband's side as he shares his worries about the present and future and his grief. In the same hour she died another friend died as well. I've consoled her 90-plus-year-old husband who is grieving the lost of a 71-year marriage. His heart is broken and he sobs in his wheelchair as grief engulfs him whenever anyone tells him how sorry they are at the loss.

Another acquaintance of mine received the horrible news that he has liver cancer. He is 30 years old and has four young children. He has no income and they recently had their power turned off.

On Monday a relative - younger than I - underwent surgery only to learn that the lymph nodes in his arm were full of cancer.

I haven't mentioned mounting job pressures, worries about the economy, and watching loved ones aging and not doing so well.

For those of us who are employed, part of us shares the pain of neighbors and friends losing jobs and houses and smacking hard into the wall of hard times. For the first time in my adult life, I feel the malaise that was with us during the Jimmy Carter years.

It's wearing on me.

It dawns on me I haven't laughed much nor felt happy in quite a while. Walking to the downtown Modesto library Thursday night and seeing the grand McHenry Mansion illuminated brilliantly didn't offer the same delight it would have a year ago.

As I'm recounting the reasons my spirits have flat-lined, I realize that maybe it's because of my focus. Being grateful is probably no easy task for anyone. It's a fight for all of us. We tend to dwell on all the disappointing things and make them bigger than the good things.

Intellectually, I know that being grateful is a mental exercise. It doesn't come naturally for me. I tend to focus on what I don't have. Here's a good example. I can get really down when I drive out of my driveway to a newer and nicer neighborhood that I didn't get to move into thanks to a crashing housing market, and have to drive back to my house. But admittedly I was a thankful soul after returning home after a week during a 2005 Mexico mission trip where I saw standard housing consisting of a shanties made out of garage doors, discarded plywood, sheets of tin and cardboard.

Everything is relative.

Perhaps if I view circumstances differently, I will develop more appreciation and thankfulness. I learned this - although sometimes I forget - when last year I met Derek McGinnis, a U.S. serviceman who lost his left leg blown and an eye in Iraq when an bomb tore a hole in his Humvee. He spent months in depression and recovery. Derek once was asking God why, of all on the battlefield, did the bomb hit his truck and tear his body apart? Derek drew closer to God and now asks Him, "Why have you chosen to bless me in this way?" Today he is helping other servicemen and their families dealing with injury and death.

Derek's life is characterized by "thanks-living," or the daily practice of counting blessings, not recounting the curses. I need to look to him as a reminder.

Every holiday I find a strange comfort in hearing Bing Crosby crooning "Counting My Blessings" when watching "White Christmas." The lyrics, in part, 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 my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all. And I fall asleep counting my blessings."

Oh to be reminded of that every day, not just at this time of year.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at