Despite a year of terrible news, we can still give thanks to God for our many blessings
By Tony Staley
Giving thanks for our blessings may seem like a contradictory idea after months of more bad news than it seems possible to absorb.
The bad news includes numerous massive natural disasters, such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004; hurricanes that devastated parts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, in addition to several Latin American countries in the Caribbean; and earthquakes that killed tens of thousands in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, wars and civil unrest continue in several countries. So far, 245 U.S. military personnel have died in the war in Afghanistan. On Oct. 25 the 2,000th member of the American military was killed in Iraq; as of Nov. 18 the toll was 2,081. And Iraq is only one of several countries where terrorists have killed with abandon.
Hunger continues to plague the world. Bread for the World (www.bread.org) reports that 852 million people, mainly in developing countries, are chronically or acutely undernourished and some 6 million children die each year from hunger-related causes. There are 114 million malnourished people in China and 221 million in India. At least those numbers are declining. In sub-Saharan Africa the figure is at 204 million and growing.
Nor can we forget the victims of violence - physical (including murder), sexual and mental - in our country and around the world.
Then there are all the people who are treated unjustly, particularly those exploited for the financial gain of the economically advantaged. The exploited include slaves, many immigrants and anyone working in unsafe conditions at sub-standard wages.
Despite all these tragedies - whether caused by nature or sinful people - there are things to be thankful for.
First, as Christians, we know that God is there with us through it all and, in the end, will triumph.
We also should give thanks for the strength of the human spirit that allows people to face life each day, still dreaming their dreams and acting heroically for others.
And we should give thanks that people everywhere willingly help those in need. Private individuals around the world - including people from extremely impoverished countries - have donated billions of dollars to help victims of the natural disasters. Catholics in the Green Bay Diocese alone have given some $2.2 million for tsunami and hurricane relief.
It's in the tragedies of the last year that we experience our solidarity and love for each other, including people we don't know, living in places we may never have heard of. We are all children of God, united in love by the saving power of Christ. All that is, indeed, cause for giving thanks.