Donald Lambro

Americans have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving while also being mindful of the millions of our fellow citizens who are unemployed, have lost their homes and are struggling to make ends meet.

This is a time of the year when we gather with family and friends to bow our heads and give thanks for so many blessings, great and small. With all of the problems our country faces, we still remain the freest and largest economy in the world, and a nation of charitable people who are always ready to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate. We are still a land of opportunity that allows even the least among us to climb the economic ladder and achieve their dreams.

But for so many Americans, this is also a very sad and troubled time, when those dreams have been shattered and the promise of America has become as elusive as a well-paying, permanent job. We are nearing the fourth year of our economic troubles, with the economy crawling along at a feeble 2.5 percent in the third quarter, the housing industry still in a hole, with mortgage foreclosures and evictions still rising -- and high unemployment projected throughout next year and beyond.

But the human misery is even deeper than the economic statistics suggest. Poverty rates and homelessness have climbed to alarming levels. Food banks are swamped by record demand, even in areas of relative prosperity.

"In Loudoun County (Virginia) -- the nation's wealthiest county measured by median income -- the food pantry is distributing its first-ever Thanksgiving meal, giving food to 2,000 families," the Washington Post reported Monday.

In nearby Fairfax County, "the nonprofit Our Daily Bread is facing the grim reality that, although it will feed 2,400 people, it may not be able to help as many as 650 needy families at Thanksgiving," the Post reported.

Lynn Brantley, president and chief executive of the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, said that "this year was the most difficult in the organization's 30-year history." Her food bank will distribute 30 million pounds of food to more than 700 nonprofit groups and agencies in the capital area -- an all-time record.

Bread lines, reminiscent of the Great Depression, "have become commonplace, including the 3,000 people who waited for groceries ... in front of the Loudoun Interfaith Relief center Friday," the newspaper said.

"With this economy, things are pretty bleak. People on Main Street are not rebounding," Brantley told the Post.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.