Thanksgiving is almost upon us and with that, so is the pressure to perform. Not in the sense of when Aunt Carol, who likes to hit the sauce a little hard on holidays (and I'm not talking gravy), asks you to play the piano even though you only took lessons for a year when you were 10, but rather the other tradition that comes along with the territory of Thanksgiving: the act of giving thanks.
Now I know that not everyone does it, and I know that not everyone even gets together with their family on Thanksgiving, but in general I think giving thanks -- the act of saying what it is you are especially thankful for that year -- is a fairly popular tradition.
So, just in case you have a brain-fart at the beginning of dinner or if you just get stage fright in front of your dad because "you're just never going live up to his expectations," here is a cheat-sheet of what you can be thankful for:
1. Be thankful that you can even read this article. Illiteracy rates in the United States are surprisingly high with almost 2 million people a year being added to the list of those considered clinically illiterate (Education-Portal.com).
The world has more than 6 billion inhabitants and some 194 countries. Of those countries there are some (mainly throughout central America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Asia) with illiteracy rates as high as 30-50 percent and more (MapsoftheWorld.com).
So when you're hard at work on that senior thesis or freshman seminar paper, keep in mind that your research is possible as a byproduct of your ability to read.
2. Be thankful that you sleep in a warm bed each night. I know better than anyone as a tall person at Richmond how frustrating it is to sleep in the beds allotted to people less than 6 feet, 3 inches. OK, so I'm not Goliath, but I'm no David either. I shouldn't have to feel cold, splintery wood under my feet as I sleep.
But then I realized A) I'm lucky enough to have a bed, and B) Many people all over the world die each year from freezing to death because they either didn't have access to heating or couldn't afford it.
For instance, living in the village of Pichccahuasi in the Peruvian Andes, the natives fight to survive the brutal winters that have seemingly worsened over the years. The natives have no alternative but to sleep on the wet ground night after night because the winter storms are able to penetrate their houses (TheGuardian.co.uk).
So the next time you feel the urge to complain about how your mom won't buy you a Tempur-Pedic mattress, you might want to think again.
3. Be thankful for transportation. Not all of us may have a car or a bike, but just the fact that we, in America and other developed nations (as well as some developing ones), have access to transportation modes such as public buses, metros and taxis is huge in comparison to the lack of any form of transportation (other than feet) that some people have to deal with.
According to WaterForTheAges.org, the average distance women and children in Asia and Africa must walk to get safe drinking water is 3.7 miles.
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If this doesn't make you feel guilty about driving to the gym then I don't know what will.
4. Be thankful for fresh water. It is so easy to take for granted something that seems unlimited, but the truth is that water is not an endless resource and is something to truly treasure.
Aside from the fact that water is not unlimited, it is also not always pure. In fact, it is rarely pure and must be filtered multiple times before it can be ingested by humans.
Luckily, in some countries, water filtration systems are decent enough that people do not find themselves getting sick by drinking it, but in others, water filtration simply doesn't exist. According to statistics from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 1.5 million children die every year from unsanitary water and water-borne illnesses.
So maybe the next time you throw a bitch-fit because they ran out of Dasani at 8:15 and all they have is tap, you'll take a moment to remember how lucky you are to have just that.
5. Be thankful for taxes. Without them, it either means you're an illegal immigrant or you're unemployed (or both, but we won't go there). The unemployment rate in the United States is 9.6 percent.
So if you're one of the lucky ones to already have a job lined up for after college, treasure it, because the job market looks pretty bleak from where I'm sitting -- which should probably be a chair in the Career Development Center because I like to write and so far I've only gotten an offer from my family's funeral home business.
6. And finally, be thankful for good friends. Because I think they are a necessity to life, just like water and a warm bed. Although they might not sustain your life, they nourish your soul. When you find one, you've hit the jackpot because in this world, people are selfish.
When you find a person or two who loves you for who you are and would truly do anything for you, someone that makes you laugh, someone that tells you the truth, someone that you can go months without seeing, but pick up right where you left off upon seeing again, someone who you could sit next to in silence for an hour and not have even a millisecond of awkwardness, someone in whom you trust, that is when you've found a good friend.
So thank you, to those of you I consider good friends; you've changed my life more than you know. I'd also like to thank the Pilgrims. If it weren't for all of you and your humble assortment of canned cranberry sauce and stuffing, of which you shared most graciously with the Native Americans, I wouldn't be where I am today -- sitting here, craving turkey and wishing it was Nov. 25.
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