Another year, another occasion to give thanks. The future may be a bit cloudy, but the present is rich with blessings:

I’m thankful for people I meet on the street who stop to chat.

I’m thankful for the smell of ground coffee or bacon or olive oil, however virginal, or the sweet cinnamon scent from patches of dried prairie flowers in the late fall, or cinnamon-glazed pecans at Christkindlmarkt.

For bookshops to browse, inspiration from unexpected sources, and finding the right poem at just the right moment.

For a wave of emotion when you haven’t felt much of anything for awhile.

I’m thankful for snail mail and e-mail, for settling in with a favorite DVD on a snowy, cold evening, or heading to the Lake Theatre to escape into someone else’s reality for a couple of hours.

I’m thankful we live in a country that could vote for George W. Bush one election and Barack Obama the next. I’m extremely thankful it happened in that order.

I’m thankful John McCain ran his campaign right out of the conservative playbook, dredging up every dreary old cliché the Republicans have overused for three decades.

I’m thankful the American people rejected them all.

I’m thankful Dubya was such a god-awful president, a textbook example of how not to govern. We now have a blueprint for future generations on what to avoid. Terrible judgment, badly informed decision-making, disregard for human rights, and arrogant self-righteousness is a toxic brew indeed (and in deed).

I’m thankful, as a friend put it recently, to be living in Oak Park and healthy enough to walk everywhere. And for a really comfortable pair of shoes.

For people who know what they’re doing, for a good story, well told.

I’m thankful, despite all the uncertainty and peril, to be alive at this point in history,

That the world is beautiful even in late November,

That love is patient and kind and endures all things,

That each day is unique, that darkness is always followed by dawn, and that each morning feels clean and new (especially Saturdays).

I’m thankful for any café where you can rent a table with a hot drink and scribble in a notebook while the collective conscious and unconscious stream by.

I’m thankful to have lived this long,

For gardens in urban settings,

For sanctuaries, spiritual and secular,

For separation of church and state,

That all men and women are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights,

That the vast majority of human beings are demonstrably decent,

That the American people can still rise to an occasion,

That our founding ideals aren’t just window dressing after all.

I’m thankful for Village Players, Festival Theatre, Circle Theatre, Dominican University, Concordia University, Unity Temple, Cheney Mansion, Pleasant Home, the Arts Center, the public libraries, the middle schools, the Art League, the Harrison Street galleries, the Academy of Movement and Music, the two park districts, churches, and any other organization or institution that provides quality cultural programming and artistic expression throughout the year.

For Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Grant Park summer concerts, Ravinia, Symphony Hall, the Art Institute, and all the other cultural riches located just a train ride away from Oak Park and River Forest.

For Chicago’s lakefront, which has improved so much in 30 years and helps keep the city sane.

I’m thankful for advances in green technology and a greater willingness to apply them, for higher gas prices if that’s what it takes to break our oil addiction, and for economic meltdowns if that’s what it takes to birth a more sensible, sustainable society.

I’m thankful for the growth opportunities that always accompany a crisis and for the privilege of being perched on the precipice of what comes next.

For the Internet when it facilitates connections, for the Sunday New York Times, for well-earned rest, hidden gems, diamonds in the rough, national treasures, odds defied and winning the right way.

For those rare moments when preparation actually meets opportunity,

For a good mechanic, good counsel, good riddance, and safe harbor,

For hitting bottom and for views from the mountaintop,

For good sermons and lectures,

For newspapers (and especially for those eager to read them).

For networking, whether digital or face-to-face.

For Studs Terkel.

I’m thankful that hearts soften and spirits soar, that words inspire and grief runs its course, that sunlight improves vision, that wrongs can be righted and forgiven, that truth eventually prevails.

That there is more than one season.

That there are more than two seasons.

For letting a friend teach me to love all four seasons and to appreciate the perfect blend of chaos and order in each.

I’m thankful that you can live simply and still live a full life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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