Sundin column: So much to be thankful for, but… | PostIndependent.com

Sundin column: So much to be thankful for, but…

Hal Sundin
As I See It
Hal Sundin

Near the end of this month we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, and most of us have so much to be thankful for.

You should be very thankful if you are in good health and do not have a disabling condition or aftereffects of a serious accident. We should all be thankful to be living in the United States of America with the freedoms we enjoy. We should also be extremely thankful to be living in Colorado with its salubrious climate and the natural beauty that surrounds us. We should also be thankful that Colorado does not have hurricanes and seldom has tornadoes, serious flooding and damaging earthquakes.

Those of us who were born between 1930 and 1980 have been blessed with the greatest half-century of economic expansion and prosperity in the history of our country and are the beneficiaries of the explosive advances in technology and health care that have come in the last 25 years.

But when we look around us, it becomes obvious that the vast majority of people in the world have much less to be thankful for. Much of the world’s population lives in squalor, without adequate housing, electricity, sanitation, safe drinking water and medical care and, in many cases, not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world are living under oppressive dictatorial regimes, or in countries riven with political or religious conflicts. The United States and many of the European countries have taken the lead in supporting efforts to alleviate these conditions, but the needs and costs are so great that progress has been limited.

However, as the saying goes, “Charity begins at home.” Throughout our country, millions of single mothers are struggling to feed and provide shelter and health care for children whose fathers have abdicated their responsibility to share in the cost of their children’s care.

Right here in our valley, with its escalated cost of living, even two working-parent families are facing the same challenge. The poverty rate for families in Colorado for 2009-13 was 14.9 percent and for Garfield County was 11.9 percent. However, the cost of living in Garfield County is much higher than the state average (which is the basis on which poverty rates for all counties are calculated), so the 11.9 percent poverty rate reported for Garfield County probably seriously understates the true poverty rate.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria which have devastated the Texas coast, much of the Lesser Antilles and Florida and virtually all of Puerto Rico and have left hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people with little to be thankful for except that they are still alive — though many of them are mourning the deaths of loved ones.

Put yourself in the their position: Your home and everything in it is destroyed, your car is ruined, you have no source of income and you have no shelter, food, water, electricity and telephone service except what is provided in overcrowded public shelters. On top of this you have no idea how long you and your family are going to be in this condition, except that it will probably be months and maybe years. Facing these conditions, it would be easy to wonder whether being alive is anything to be thankful for.

Much the same goes for the thousands of people in California whose homes have been destroyed by raging wildfires, although far fewer people have been affected, most if not all of them are probably insured and the damage is limited to a much smaller area.

It is up to those of us who have so much to be thankful for to open our hearts and pocketbooks to those who are suffering so desperately. Our generosity in this time of need can give them the means and the courage to try to rebuild their lives.

But be careful about to whom you donate. There are unscrupulous people out there who enrich themselves by preying on people’s generosity. Donate only to recognized charities such as (but not exclusively) the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army on the national level and the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies and LIFT-UP on the local level.

It will give you a warm comfortable feeling this Thanksgiving to know that you have done something meaningful to help those truly in need.

Hal Sundin’s column appears monthly.