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On this Thanksgiving, hard times call for generous spirits

Thanksgiving reflection

Hard times need generous spirits

For all its beauty, this autumn just seems a time of unusual suffering. So many stories strangely converge. Between the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tremendous size of the national debt, millions of people without jobs, the devastation to life and livelihoods caused by natural disasters, the continued evisceration of social programs that once used to provide a safety net for the elderly, the poor and children, the bitter partisanship and lack of compassion and vision among our nation's politicians, it would be an understatement to say that we all seem to be a bit on edge.

How on earth can we be grateful in these circumstances? But it is precisely at times like these that we should be more grateful than ever for what we have and try to find ways to give of ourselves, even when we are least inclined to do so. This is because giving releases us from the vice of self-concern, despair and hopelessness and opens our heart to thankfulness.

On this Thanksgiving Day, may we remember with gratitude what we have, the many gifts and blessings that come to us unbidden. May we give thanks for all those in our lives — family and friends — who have brought us warmth and love. May we ardently seek within the quietness of our souls to be more gracious and sharing, more urgent to act, in order to be true to ourselves and the faiths that sustain us. May we strive to be more compassionate, knowing that the battles we fight in our own lives are not unlike the battles others fight as well. May we be ever thankful for life and attentive to it, that it may fill us and lead us in the way of wholeness. And may we be blessed in all our comings and goings, on this day, and in all the days to come.

The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater

We need to remember that pennies do count

Recently, my wife and I went to a McDonald's for a sandwich. We were sitting in a booth when my wife told me there was a man at the counter who was short of change. I looked over and saw a middle aged, very thin man with a graying beard, wearing tattered clothes, standing at the counter. I went over to ask how I could help, and the person behind the counter said that this man was two cents short for the sandwich he had ordered. I reached in my pocket and gave the employee the two cents and told him, "Don't you ever refuse anyone food or drink for a lousy two cents." I then gave the man a five dollar bill and told him to use this for his next meal. The man thanked me and I went back to finish my sandwich.

When we left the restaurant I was disturbed at what had just happened. Here we live in what we are to believe is the best and wealthiest country in the world, yet we have so much poverty and despair. Those who have jobs are fortunate; they are the lucky ones. But for those who are out of work and can't find a job, they are living right on the edge.

Unless you are one of those unfortunate people, you don't fully understand what they are going though. I'm enjoying the good life of retirement with no worries, and we count our blessings every day for our well-being. So many people who are living the "good life" fail to realize there are those out there who struggle every day for the basics of life.

Too many have the attitude that these people who are poor choose to be that way. Everyone has a story, I'm sure, but we don't have to look to far to find those who are in need, young and old.

Never again will I see a penny as just a penny. I've learned that a couple of them could be the difference between someone eating or going hungry.

John W. Wirth, Largo

Just not made for walking | Nov. 21

Just install some sidewalks

I don't know how all of a sudden this story is front-page news. It should be front-page news every day in every newspaper across Florida.

I am only 36 but have driven enough miles in this state to dub it the "Concrete State." People I meet from all over the world are always so jealous when they hear that I live in Tampa. I just roll my eyes and sigh. How beautiful can a state really be when all we do is roll over every beautiful, natural wonder God gave us with a cement truck? And to top it off, those trucks don't make any room for people to get from Point A to Point B unless they have some mode of gas-guzzling transportation. It's sickening that I can't even walk to a grocer from my apartment because everything is so widespread and I have no safe sidewalks.

Instead of wasting time, money and resources on research, just start laying some sidewalks. God knows we have enough cement around and have no problem using it in our so-called green state. At least this cement should help save some lives.

Samantha Kerr, Tampa

Pedestrian safety

Make it a priority

I learned to drive in another state and can still recall the first sentence in the driver's manual: "The pedestrian always has the right of way."

This was a simple, clear statement of the basic responsibility all drivers must follow in order to have the privilege to operate a motor vehicle.

Here in this state, the economics of unfettered development and a me-first attitude on the roads have, by design, compromised pedestrian safety. It's high time to insist that our elected officials make this a priority.

Reduced speed limits, pedestrian-driven on-demand crossing signals, elevated pedestrian crossings over heavily trafficked roads, and video surveillance and ticketing at historically dangerous intersections would be some long-term solutions.

All would certainly cost money.

Stepped-up enforcement of existing traffic laws would be a short-term stopgap measure and might actually generate revenues and get some dangerous drivers off the road.

Roger Roach, Pinellas Park

Just not made for walking | Nov. 21

Inexcusable situation

Thank you for printing this story. Every time I see someone cross any street I shudder. Recently, I saw a frail elderly woman struggle to push a wheelchair-bound adult across a busy street. I prayed for their angels to get them across safety.

I then wondered, "How in the world can anyone on foot get groceries and medicine without risking their lives?" Having no other option but to cross dangerous highways is inexcusable, especially for those who no longer drive. Pinellas County truly is a dangerous place on foot, and a proactive solution is needed now.

Maureen Stearns, St. Petersburg

Rude awakening is due

As an expatriate of seven years from Central Europe I have often scoffed at the infrastructure conditions in Florida (and in the United States).

For me, an urban (or suburban) road without sidewalks on both sides is an unthinkable situation, yet it is an everyday reality on many roads in Florida and the United States. A lot of times, I can't help but think of "Third World country" when considering the traffic infrastructure here.

But then, how can you blame a people who have experienced a lifetime of oil luxury with gas costing a third of what it does in Europe? Who sees the need for change, as long as it doesn't financially hurt to drive?

In the meantime, "Carmerica" is as alive and prosperous as ever. But beware, one day there will be a rude awakening for you.

Georg Oehl, Clearwater

Military experiment seeks to predict PTSD Nov. 22, story

The toll on troops

I suspect that posttraumatic stress disorder affects everybody who's ever been in combat. I went to college with the first vets on the original GI Bill from World War II. From then on, I have talked with, read and seen many accounts of vets from that war who, even now, 60-plus years later, evince symptoms of the affliction: fear of sudden loud noises, waking up from a nightmare, etc., as they relive in their dreams the enemies they killed or the friends they saw killed.

Are some people "genetically" prone to develop PTSD from combat? I seriously doubt it. I don't believe we're genetically "designed" to kill each other. And when that happens, any "normal" person is going to be upset in some way. It just may be that some people are "tougher" on the outside and can hide, or deal more positively with the horrific experiences they undergo in war, and others can't. So those people outwardly reflect PTSD.

To prevent that, how about not sending people off to war's "killing fields"? That is, how about a world without war?

John B. Kelley, Clearwater

On this Thanksgiving, hard times call for generous spirits 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 4:49pm]
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