The pretentious headline isn’t mine. It comes from an editorial in a small town newspaper I read last Thanksgiving, before it all went to hell. At the time the paper complained of the ongoing war in Iraq, the increasingly high levels of mercury in snowmelt (?) and the general loathing of the United States by the rest of the world. I’m celebrating in a different place, so I can only imagine what they’ve come up with this year. But it’s not hard to imagine.

It got me thinking about Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War. He describes in detail the horrors of the crossing and initial years in a windswept, desolate new world. Between the Pilgrims’ arrival in November and the following March, only 47 of the original 102 passengers survived, and half the crew died. The survivors were so sick that only six at a time were well enough to care for the rest. And yet, when all was said and done, they still found quite a bit to be thankful for.

It’s important to put the current financial crisis in context, and maybe feel just a bit of shame at the narcissism and self-pity to which we all too easily fall victim. These aren’t the best of times, but are certainly far from the worst. Among the many, many things I’m thankful for are the men and women sweating in the desert to protect my right to eat and drink too much. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to witness a historic election and smooth transition of power as a member of the greatest democracy the world has ever produced. I’m thankful for a government strong enough to absorb $300 billion of financial sewage from just one company’s balance sheet.

Yes, bad things happen (and will continue to happen), but I’m thankful for the foresight and courage of good people, beginning with those that landed on a crop of rock in a chilly Massachusetts harbor 400 years ago. This whole thing’s a bit self-indulgent, I know. But on a day like today, let’s just say I’m very content.