The history of Thanksgiving is filled with examples of people pausing in seemingly the bleakest of times to give thanks.
From early settlers beset by the elements in a hostile land, to combatants in our nation's bloodiest wars, to people struggling through economic depression, Thanksgivings in difficult times are more the norm than not.
Although signs of economic recovery abound in Sonoma County, it's a different story in many local homes. The county's unemployment rate is holding down to 6.1 percent, far below the 11.2 percent of 2010. But joblessness remains a major obstacle for many families.
And yet, there's still cause for thankfulness. What do we embrace about life in Sonoma County? In honor of Thanksgiving, here are a few items:
Landscapes: Few places on Earth offer the diversity of natural beauty — rugged shoreline, redwood cathedrals, vineyard valleys, mountain ranges — as what we enjoy here.
Goodwill: People here tend to be comfortable with one another's differences. We're not perfect, but if you talk to people who move away, they miss the sense of acceptance in Sonoma County.
Political involvement: This is something, perhaps, only editorial writers consider on a holiday like this. But we're thankful for the civic engagement that exists in this area and the interaction that's created by the many who send us letters and guest opinions each day. Despite limiting you to one letter and one opinion piece every 90 days, we receive far more letters each day than we can publish.
The fact is people here are engaged and motivated 365 days a year. The conversation is sometimes messy, but it's never boring, and people do it for one reason above all others: They care about making this a better place to live.
Generosity: For many families, Thanksgiving meals come today thanks only to those who have given to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, the Redwood Gospel Mission, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and a number of other organizations. Sonoma County continually ranks among the top counties in the state and nation for volunteerism. In all, nearly 40 percent of Sonoma County's population volunteers on a regular basis. That's 10 percent more than just about any other California community.
Fresh produce: From Gravenstein apples and Bosc pears to chard and white pomegranates, Sonoma County's bounty is rich. And much of it can be purchased directly from the grower.
We haven't even mentioned the benefits of Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts -- and all the cultural benefits provided there and other local venues -- as well as our world-class wine industry.
This has been a rebounding year for many families and challenging one for others. But on this Thanksgiving Day, many of us won't find it difficult to list the things that make life here something special — and worth celebrating. Happy Thanksgiving.
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