Cal  Thomas

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude and Christmas about what? Getting more stuff we don't really need, but sometimes selfishly want?

It's also the political season, which will outlast Christmas - along with every other holiday between now and Halloween next - and that means listening to claims by Democratic presidential candidates that the economy is bad and getting worse.

Here's a suggestion for a Christmas present you can give yourself that will be remembered long after whatever you get and give this Christmas is forgotten. Depending on your age, go to your grandparents and ask how they lived when they were young, or even middle-aged. Try visiting the house in which they grew up. Ask them what kind of things they received at Christmas. Have them tell you the amount of their average paycheck. Then ask if they were content.

I am privileged to live on the same street where I spent the first seven years of my life. My elementary school was a half block away from our two-bedroom apartment, which also remains. The neighborhood was all white then, now it houses mostly immigrants. I don't know what my parents paid in rent during World War II, but I do know my mother had ration stamps, some of which she pasted in a scrapbook she gave to me. I never heard her complain about "doing without," though she frequently did.

When my Dad returned from the war, we moved to another Washington suburb. His first house cost $20,000. He bought it on the GI Bill and thought he had arrived on easy street. The house is still there. It would fit inside my current home and yet people my age are crying about the stagnating economy. They've got to be kidding.

When my father died, I went through his papers and discovered some old income tax returns. The amount of money he made in his later years (and even his middle years) would be considered poverty wages by today's standards. I never heard him complain. He always provided for us and taught us to be grateful for what we had and to live within our means.

I keep some of my early paychecks from NBC where I started in journalism as a copy boy. The weekly salary is less than my withholding today. I'm not bragging, just saying that we ought to remind ourselves of the gift we have that is America, which offers opportunities to succeed more than any nation on Earth.

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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