tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


About a year and a half ago, I listened to a speech by a guy named Dinesh D’Souza. He had just written a book called “What’s so great about America.” The title is a statement, not a question. As he was describing the plight of people who struggle with real poverty all over the globe, he quipped that while we worry about cars and big houses, many people in Africa, Asia and parts of South America would “be happy to have regular bowel movements.” That line got a little chuckle but I realize now that he wasn’t kidding.

In India, I saw many skinny, near-naked people living in squalor. Some bathed themselves in muddy rainwater that collected in the potholes. Collecting trash, others picked through rubble that lined the streets. In the countryside, I saw people thrashing wheat by hand, or digging in the dirt without tools. Everywhere I went with my travel group, we saw beggars. The water they drink is not clean; the food they eat is not substantial nor particularly nutritious; their living conditions are not safe. Yes, I can understand, their bowels are probably not functioning to their potential. If they were, it would be a big deal. D’Souza wasn’t kidding.

This is Thanksgiving Day and I am not creative enough to think of anything else to do with a blog post today than to give thanks. Of course I am thankful for the really big things, like a great wife and kids, a home, work that I enjoy, faith and great friends, but lately I am finding particular joy in giving thanks for the little things.

For example, I am thankful for matching socks, and paper for writing down ideas, pens that work, pencils that are sharp. I am thankful for shoes and gloves and a warm hat. I am thankful for all those free newspapers that are available throughout the city, not that they offer particularly good reading but they tell me I am in a world full of people with all kinds of different ideas. I am glad everyone is not the same. (Oops, I think that is a big thing, not a little thing.)

I am grateful for the little restaurant where I buy my lunch three days out of five. I am grateful for plumbing, let alone indoor plumbing. I am grateful for soap and a dependable razor. I am grateful for toothpaste that tastes good and dental floss. I am grateful for Kleenex and paper towels, sugar and chocolate chips, banana bread and spaghetti.

I am grateful that someone figured out electrical outlets should be standardized, and I am grateful that someone figured out all the rules for driving on the road, and I am grateful that the parking meters in downtown Minneapolis take a rest on certain holidays, including Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my eyesight and my ears so I can drink up all the interesting things that are going on around me. I am grateful for the squirrels and all the little animals that scurry through my back yard, giving me entertainment.

I am grateful for the people who collect our trash and deliver our mail and provide police and fire protection. I am grateful for the operators who staff the 411 telephone service and the people who put together the phone book. I am grateful for the street cleaners and the cable guy and the meter readers and all the other people who do their jobs to keep the city operating.

But, oops, there I go again. These are big things. None of these things are little. Maybe there are no little things. Good health, including properly functioning bowels, is a big thing.

On this Thanksgiving, in 2007, I am particularly thankful for those people in India. I saw a lot of poor people when I was there but I didn’t see people who had given up. They were persevering. They were making the most of what they have. It seemed to me that they were holding onto hope. They must have seen potential that most of us miss. Thinking about all the things for which I can be grateful is helping some of that potential to come into view for me.

1 comment:

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: Great post. I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving.