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On the surface, it seems that it would be difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving and be thankful during the challenging circumstances that plague our country now. From a raging pandemic that is sweeping the land and killing Americans by more than a thousand every day, to a contested election that is still dividing our country, to racial unrest that has shadows which still darken the sunny skies.

It seems our country is torn apart on many levels. Even wearing a mask became a political battle that some frame as a freedom of choice issue. I know many of us are despondent about this election cycle and how it made our country more divided. People inside and outside the United Stated criticize the current system of election and the polarization that accompany it. But it behooves all of us to take a wider approach in viewing what is going on in our country.

It is called DEMOCRACY! Yes, democracy is sometimes messy, but it is still the best system for governing.

By the same token, it is important for us, political leaders more so, to protect this democracy. One of the important aspects of democracy is believing in the system and protecting it. If we don’t like the system, we should change it. But it is our collective responsibility to protect that system that we eventually choose and have faith in it. If we raise doubts about the validity of the system, then our faith in democracy itself would be diminished or even completely lost.

Surprisingly, some of the world’s ruthless dictators have been very vocal criticizing our democracy as a sham. No, it is not. It is pure democracy which is so different from dictatorship. I have lived under both systems and know the stark difference between them very well.

Before any Thanksgiving meal, every family, even via Zoom, should make a list of things to be thankful for. I know times are tough. I know many families have lost loved ones. Many breadwinners have lost their livelihood. Many people are struggling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 infections. There is a lot of hurt in our land these days. A lot of broken hearts and broken dreams. The skies are full of dark, ominous clouds. The mood is also dark and sad. Sometimes even hope appears to be fading, leaving in its wake a gloomy touch of despair.

In the midst of this oppressive darkness, there is no better time to have Thanksgiving than now. In this utter darkness, we do need light. In this atmosphere of despair, we do need hope. In this environment of polarization, we do need a sense of purpose that unites us. We do need a candle to light the horizon.

But who will provide this candle? The answer is us. Each one of us has a seed of hope and optimism inside. We should allow this seed to grow and flower. Americans are known for their sunny optimism. Each one of us has a small candle inside. We need to light this candle and get out. Even the smallest candle can defeat the most oppressive darkness.

So, what should we be thankful for? Plenty! First and foremost, our families, our health, our children and grandchildren, but most importantly our country. True, we are facing many challenges that are tearing us apart. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The election is over and if your side did not win, there is another election and another and another just over the horizon. Even the catastrophic pandemic will come to an end in a few months, especially if we develop a national policy to combat the virus and when vaccines become readily available to the majority of people.

So, there are so many things to be thankful for.

Even with all the challenges that our country faces, America is still the best place to live. Our values and vision are by far the best in the world. But even the best and the brightest can be tested and challenged. What is more important is not the challenges themselves but how we react to those challenges. And while we are fighting all these challenges, we should not forget what America is all about and what America represents, not only to Americans but to the whole world. Despite the bruises and scratches, despite the tears and blood, despite the gaping wounds, America is still the most beautiful place on earth.

Each one of us is responsible for lighting a candle. It is our responsibility to make this Thanksgiving celebration the best. Because when we are tested as a country and as a people, as the bitterness increases, the sweetness of Thanksgiving would be even sweeter. That candle in the dark will be the best gift each one of us gives to each other and to our country. Do not hide your candle. Bring it out. Light it and let us brighten our days and nights.

When our candles are united to light up the world, the whole world will see our light and celebrate with us and collectively say: Welcome back, America, we are thankful for thee!

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