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Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, kicks giving into high gear, and shines a glaring light on the disparities and unmet needs in our communities.

I give thanks for good health, family, housing, and the ability to meet my needs and wants. I don’t take those things for granted, nor do I look down on those who are unable or unwilling to do the same. But as I look around at the wealth and waste in this city, state, and country, I wonder about the application and distribution of such that keeps us divided and too many in despair.

I see senior citizens working laborious jobs and wonder why they must literally work to the end of their lives without the pleasure or privilege of enjoying what should be their Golden Years. I question the work model that keeps families apart more than together and stressed more than celebrating. I see Veterans who struggle after serving a country that all but turned its back on them.

Education is promoted as the defining factor between struggle and success, and yet the cost and quality continue to be hindrances in the realization of the latter. Students are allowed to pass through school without the preparation needed to pursue a better life. College has become an expensive option that many are opting not to pursue. Education is a business, and students are processed like cars on an assembly line, only to later become a social liability.

Healthcare continues to have gaping holes through which many fall as profits take precedence over patients. When I hear people consider the cost first, despite having insurance, before seeking needed care, something is clearly out of whack.

I look at the thousands of organizations in this state alone that are in the business of helping to fill the gaps for those in need. Yet they do little more than circulate money and recycling issues without ever addressing the root causes of these issues. Instead, help is handed out like Band-Aids for a gunshot wound. Problems continue and the people perish.

Elected officials have chosen self-service over public service, and repeatedly ignore the needs or calls of constituents to make better decisions. Instead, so-called leaders pretend to care and hear residents’ concerns, only to blatantly disregard the very people they should serve.

Money is invested in projects and not people. Funds are sent elsewhere, with growing unmet needs here at home. Actions and words are performative with no progress. And we all just carry on without question or accountability.

We should collectively have more reasons to be thankful. That should include honest leaders who truly work for and on behalf of the people who elected them. We should have dependable energy sources that are affordable and uninterrupted with every raindrop. A safe and vibrant city and state where people want to live and can thrive.

We should have stellar graduation rates of students who can read, write, and think for themselves, and seamlessly transition to the next level of preparation of becoming a productive and contributing citizen.

We should have accountability for public dollars and access to answers from those who are charged with spending them.

We should be thankful for the fair and equal distribution of resources that solve social problems rather than patch and prop them up for photo ops. People should be fairly compensated for the work they perform, without bearing the brunt of corporate profit margins.

This isn’t a political perspective or wish, it’s a humanitarian one. Just for life and those living it to be and be treated fairly. The enhanced list of what we should be able to give thanks for seems simple but sometimes feels unrealistic. In the meantime, count your blessings however seemingly small. I promise to do the same.

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