Thanksgiving 2009 – Confronting our adversity, remaining optimistic

This time last year, the national economy was preparing for collapse. The economy’s beginning of the end, or as Churchill once said, the end of the beginning, came into full force in and around Thanksgiving 2008.

Yet we all sat down with our families and friends last year for a hearty Thanksgiving dinner.

One year has passed since we dodged a depression – and it appears that what happened last year was very close to a financial catastrophe similar to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Now we are dealing with the detritus of the collapse; the near death and re-birth of the banking industry; the death and questionable re-birth of the auto industry and the general collapse of the real estate market – although in many better neighborhoods prices remain high and fairly steady by comparison with other places where most people are holding mortgages amounting to more than the value of the homes.

The election last November of President Barack Obama was electrifying – a sort of controlled atomic blast that raised the national image of itself and assuring nearly all of us that America is, indeed, about the best place in the world to lead one’s life.

By December the stock market was in free fall. By January it almost hit bottom and then Obama was inaugurated. Again, the nation sighed collectively about America being a great place. One needed only look at the skin color of our President to prove that.

From January until now, as we prepare to gather around the Thanksgiving table once again, hundreds of thousands of men and women have lost jobs every month and the unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent nationally. It is 8.9 percent in Massachusetts.

No new jobs in meaningful numbers are being created, and therein is the rub as we eat turkey, squash, gravy, stuffing and cranberries on Thursday.

America thrives with new jobs. It stumbles without them.

The stock market is up but everyone’s IRA and 401K are so far down that the stock market’s variations mean comparatively little to average Americans. Huge companies are concerned only with higher profits and continue to shed workers in order to raise profits.

The real estate market locally and nationally is a shadow of what it used to be.

Sales are sluggish. Prices are down. The upside looks slimmer and slimmer as we sit down at the table on Thursday for a rich dinner with family and friends.

All of this being said and everything about the future being uncertain and incomplete, we know this – our society will survive and it will flourish. This is the history of our nation.

Adversity is the road that most often leads to greater success.

As the ancient Romans said: “Nihil eripit fortuna nisi quod et dedit” — Fortune takes from us nothing but what she has given us.

As you sit with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table on Thursday, remember to give thanks for we continue to have much to be thankful for.

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