Related: Celebration, Social Issues

A Recession Thanksgiving


eat_fish.gifMaybe you think that “thanksgiving” as in “giving thanks” is not something you’ll do this year.   I mean, really, what with the government having to bailout all the banks and foreclosures running amok and those Detroit guys flying their private planes to beg for money (notice:  they didn’t drive their own cars… they were probably in the shop!) and recently defeated candidates already starting campaigns for 2012.   Who is able to give thanks when you can easily find a parking space at Best Buy or Tysons Corner — that’s not a good sign!   So many big screen TVs, so little available credit.

Wait.  Maybe, that’s it!   Maybe we really do have a few things for which we can give thanks in this season!

The recession brings hidden treasures, and I’m not just talking about the revival of Spam (the “potted meat product,” not the virtual junk food.)

For this 2008 Thanksgiving Season, as the long recession settles over the country like winter darkness, let’s take a minute to give thanks for the good things that this moment can illuminate in all of our lives:

Give thanks for the need to think twice about spending too much on Christmas presents.   That was a terrible habit, wasn’t it?  How many of those presents are still sitting in closets and drawers, or relegated to the bottom of the toy box?

In this season, when so many people will have real needs, splurge on charitable giving instead.   None of us really needs another book, gadget or pair of Totes earwarmers.   But people who depend on S.O.M.E. or Martha’s Table or Goodwill or Mary’s Center may well need those services even more in the months to come.   Write a check to a worthy charity, not Visa, and give your loved ones a hug and a card that tells them that their gift is helping someone else who really needs the support this year.

Give thanks for that shrinking retirement fund.  Yes, really.   Golfing for the next 30 years just doesn’t seem like a good idea, anyway.   Why should the world lose years of talent and experience to the magic number of 65?   We can give thanks for the joy of continuing to work well into our 80’s at the rate this economy is going….

But also, remember the elderly who are in near-panic mode as they watch their life’s savings dwindle.   Once again, if you need to spend money this season, consider what you can offer to an older relative or nonprofit organization that specializes in taking care of retired citizens who are at grave risk right now.

Give thanks for the ultimate Bonfire of the Vanities, truly the end of the Era of the Masters of the Universe.   The economic catastrophe of this moment is a great pain inflicted on the entire world because too many people were too consumed with making quick money, living beyond their means, lost in the fierce and all-consuming pursuit of material acquisitions.   Yes, it is quite ridiculous that CEOs who made tens of millions of dollars last year are now acting sanctimonious about taking pay cuts — one year’s compensation for the chairman of AIG is more than most people made in a lifetime.   But let’s give thanks for the fact that real life is catching up with the surreal lifestyles that Wall Street excesses fueled.

Give thanks for the need to think twice about what kind of new car you’ll buy when making such a purchase becomes possible again.   Don’t let fuel fool!  The recent decline in gasoline prices — welcome, albeit fleeting, consumer relief — is no reason to reconsider the wisdom of buying a more fuel-efficient car.

Give thanks for all the people who are working harder than ever in the service industries while payrolls shrink to contain costs.   Just last week, I was riding a Rent-a-Car shuttle at the Cincinnati airport, and the driver was lamenting that the rental car business has laid off so many workers recently that those who are left have to work more hours, and less desirable shifts.    People who work in the service industries are especially hard-hit in this recession, either laid-off or not getting raises or being forced to work more difficult hours.  Take an extra minute to thank the shuttle driver or bus driver or hotel worker or the person who waits on your table at the local chain restaurant.

For those of us who are privileged to work, and who have the even rarer privilege of working in higher education, let’s give thanks for this marvelous way of life.   Here at Trinity, we have a longstanding commitment to ensure all personnel that your jobs are safe, and that salaries will keep pace with the cost of living.   Our wage scales and raises are comparatively modest, but protecting the workforce is a priority for Trinity.

Ensuring the security of our workforce is a priority for Trinity because ensuring the continuing accessibility and quality of our programs and services is essential for our students.   Give thanks for the gift of a great education.   Thank your teachers today… immediately, now!   Thank your students, too… they are the meaning in our lives each day!   When we consider how relatively few citizens of the global village have access to any education at all, let alone a remarkably rich program of higher education nad advanced degrees, we must give thanks for the tremendous gifts of teaching and learning here at Trinity.

Finally, let us also give thanks in this season for the courageous souls who have taken on the burdens of civic leadership in this difficult age.   The election of Barack Obama has been cause for joy for many citizens, but more important, we should be grateful that this talented young leader is also able to attract so many other talented leaders to the tasks of government today.

In the same spirit, even though many may have political disagreements with the departing administration, we should rise to the occasion to give thanks to President Bush and all of the public servants who worked so hard in the last eight years through some truly terrible days.

We should ultimately give thanks for a system of government in which the transfer of power is peaceful, and the will of We the People really is the guiding force for law and policy.

Let us give thanks for the amazing gifts of democracy and freedom.   We can make do with Spam and macaroni, we can run the car for another year or take up walking more.  We can live without the latest iThing, the biggest screen, the latest jeans, the snazziest jackets, the biggest designer handbags, the trip to Bermuda, the declining balances and squeezed credit limits.

But we can’t live without freedom.    Give thanks, now and always, for our freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!


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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: