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Posted: November 29, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Thankgiving 2009

It's hard to believe, but nevertheless true, that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey - not the Golden Eagle - to serve as America's national emblem. I'm thinking old Ben may have gotten one too many jolts when he flew that kite in a storm and caught lightning in a bottle. But at least his beloved turkey performs national service when served up on Thanksgiving Day - that special time of year when, with the full consent of our federal government, Americans give thanks to God for our nation and our way of life.

The year 2009 has been tough for our family, as it has for many families. Dealing with death and serious illnesses while juggling work schedules and trying to maintain normalcy has taxed all of us. Yet there are so many others who have even rougher roads to travel, and who face each new day with uncertainty and trepidation.

Therefore, as Thanksgiving Day approaches, I'm mindful of the many blessings which God has bestowed upon me in particular, and our society at large. Thus I view my metaphorical glass as half-full instead of half-empty. Of the many blessings in that glass, here are a few for which I give thanks.

I'm thankful we live in a free country, one which still has "In God We Trust" emblazoned on its currency and which, when last I checked, is still "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I'm thankful for a nation which, despite the serious differences of opinion within the ranks of her people, has the guts to put democracy to the test and on display for the whole world to see, by electing to our highest office a minority with ties to the very Muslim world which would exult in our demise.

No, I didn't vote for Barack Hussein Obama and hope he's a one-term president. But if anyone in any way, shape, form or fashion, ever doubted the strength of America and the truth of our democratic way of life, the election of our 44th president dispelled those doubts forever.

I'm thankful we still live in a land of plenty where even our poorest citizens are better off than most of the rest of Earth's peoples.

I'm thankful for young men and women who voluntarily serve America's armed forces, putting themselves in harm's way for freedom's sake.

I'm thankful to be a native Georgian, for North America's largest granite outcropping, Stone Mountain, and the greatest golf tournament in the world, the Masters. I'm thankful for perfect autumn Saturday afternoons, when those who cherish the oldest land grant university in America gather "between the hedges," even as others who support that trade school on North Avenue swarm into "the Flats." From the mountains to the sea, from the crystal clear headwaters of the Chattahoochee River to the unimaginable spectacle of the Okefenokee Swamp, from bucolic rural byways to the rat race of metropolitan Atlanta, I'm thankful for my Georgia, largest state east of the Mississippi River.

I'm thankful, too, that I had opportunity to live my adult life and help my wife raise our three children in Covington and Newton County. We moved here in 1977, and although the changes which have swept the western half of the county have rendered it virtually unrecognizable from just 31 years ago, I'm thankful for the tenacity of the many who cherish the land and history that has allowed our county seat and the eastern reaches of our county to maintain at least a semblance of connectivity to our rich heritage.

I'm thankful for a wife who still loves me after nearly 36 years, for three healthy, grown children who follow their dreams and make a positive difference in this world. I'm thankful for my uncle, Ernie Harwell, who while dealing with incurable pancreatic cancer continues to personify grace and nobility of character. I'm thankful for my 94-year-old mom's determination while fighting congestive heart failure, and for the strength displayed by my mother-in-law and the devotion exhibited by her children during my father-in-law's recent slow fade to his eternal rest.

I'm thankful for good friends, good food and good music. I'm thankful for moonlight through the pines and red clay, for an old Jeep and for dirt roads where I can still get lost on a crisp, clear, winter day.

I'm thankful that the Founding Fathers of these United States began a tradition for all Americans to stop and reflect on their condition, and to give thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of posterity.

And finally, much as I appreciate Franklin's considerable contributions to our world, when dinner's served this Thanksgiving Day, I'm really thankful old Ben lost out on his choice for America's national bird.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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