Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Family, food, and a focus on gratitude for the things you have, not the things you want. What else could you ask for? (Well, besides leftovers.)We're pretty lucky to live in the US. Some of us came here, or maybe your parents or grandparents did. Others won the lottery of life and were born here. But it can be easy to lose perspective in the face of the daily grind; the day-to-day work and the expectations from yourself and others. Thanksgiving is a time for perspective, for reflection. It's a time to embrace the good in our lives. Here are a few facts to get you going; maybe you can bring these up at dinner today and get a conversation started.
1.) If you make 34,400 a year, you are in the top 1% wealthiest people in the world.
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Pictured: Middle-class America, as perceived by the rest of the world.[/caption]
To us, it's not an amazing wage. Certainly respectable, but no one is making rap videos about it. But when you consider the literal billions of people that exist in this world who get by with far, far less, you begin to see the real picture of what that income really means.
If you're an accountant, elementary school teacher, or a nurse, your average income falls well within this margin. So congrats! You're richer than you know.
2.) Two-thirds of the world's citizens live under government censorship.
Especially this year, the discussion of media and its influence has been tense at best. But it's important to know that the right to a free press, even with stations that "lean" to opposing ideologies, is a unique trait in this world. A lot of countries tailor their news to fit the narrative that the government wants; a single, unchallenged narrative that makes them look good. These countries are even open about censorship, punishing voices against the government with fines, prison, and even death.
3.) Many of those same people live with intimidating religious restrictions.
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Women in Jos, Nigeria, mourn as they march against a recent bout of sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.[/caption]We can believe what we like and express our opinions on anything in this country. We can peacefully protest, and make our voices heard. This may lead to a lot of "offense" drama, but it remains an inalienable right for any American, regardless of the logic or morality behind their claims. Meanwhile, other places impose their own religion via the government or powerful groups with deep ties therein. Others will punish you severely for having any religion whatsoever. While some advocate "safe spaces" and others condemn "the professionally offended," many people don't even have the ability to have a place to worship or speak freely about their government and the laws it mandates. The have no safe space, and they can't voice their offense. Instead, they live in constant fear.
4.) Average life expectancy in America rose by 10 years from 1950 to 2011, from 68 to 78. It's now at 83 years.
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WWII veterans gather at the Washington D.C. memorial to remember Pearl Harbor. Source: Department of Veterans Affairs[/caption]No small feat, either. First, infanticide had to go down to raise that average. Vaccines against many major illnesses helped with that (no more iron lungs, score!). From there, breakthroughs in everything from surgery to cancer treatment have dramatically improved our later years and prevented premature death. Compare that to medieval times, when people rarely bathed, toilet paper wasn't a thing, and urine was used as an antiseptic. Ick.
5.) Psychologists have shown that feeling and sharing gratitude significantly improves our overall happiness and the happiness of others.
We don't always take the time to say "thank you" to the people that help us through life. Make sure to take the opportunity; it reaps incredible dividends. Managers, thank your employees; it will likely motivate them to work harder. Employees, thank your managers; your feedback will show them what to do more of. Children, thank your parents, and vice versa; it can often be more powerful than "I love you." Thank your service members, your public workers, your cashiers and retail employees; you will make their day (take it from a former cashier). The power of a kind word, an acknowledgment of someone's hard work or impact on your life, can fundamentally change that person's outlook on the world.It might just change yours, too.Happy Thanksgiving! What are you grateful for?