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Editorial: Amid challenges, on Thanksgiving, much to be grateful for

Thanksgiving 2017 arrives, in general terms, the way it always does: with families gathering around a table centered by a turkey. A large-ish parade is expected in a big-ish city. Did someone say football?

But, as always, the kaleidoscope of time tumbles into new shapes, presenting new views, new challenges, new things for which we may be thankful, individually and collectively. Start with the opportunity to work.

The national economy is humming nicely. It took a long time to recover from the reverberating disaster of the Great Recession, but across the country, Americans are again able to work in great numbers. Unemployment is at 4.4 percent, a level hovering around what economists consider to be full employment. New York’s rate was a healthy 4.8 percent. In big-picture terms, these are good times.

Buffalo also continues to do well. The SolarCity plant is starting to come to life, giving Buffalo the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere. Yes, there are some worries about the solar market, but we’ll worry about the worries another day.

The city has become a magnet for young people. Leaders here are working to make sure they want to stay here for the long haul. With them, the city has a new vibrancy, one that suits it very well.

Indeed, Buffalo is doing better than it has in decades. Earlier this month, the $270 million John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital opened on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, creating a modern, high-tech facility to replace the venerable institution that had anchored the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street for a century and a quarter. With that – and the Conventus building and the Gates Vascular Institute and the upgrade at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the pending move of the University at Buffalo Medical School – there is much for which to be thankful in the realm of health care alone.

Gratefulness? What about for the brave men who prevented the massacre that was shaping up last week outside a store in Cheektowaga? Dozens of people could easily have been killed.

As it was, Mark Pinnavaia and Christopher Kaufmann saw what was happening and acted in the face of danger. The shooter was heavily armed and had more than 850 rounds of ammunition. Without their intervention, many families would be suffering today and this would have been a badly marred holiday.

It was a different kind of bravery that cost the life of Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner, but it was a kind that was infused in his character. The Iraq War veteran was training underwater in the Niagara River when he was lost. His death was a lesson for anyone who didn’t understand that police face dangers in many ways and many environments. For his life and those of  officers who put on uniforms every day, this is another good year to be thankful.

Truth-tellers seem to be fewer and farther between than ever, these days. It’s not just fake news and the fake claims of fake news, though such manipulations are deliberate impediments to Americans who care about facts and how they influence the direction of their democracy. It’s also the exaggeration of issues in ways that distort their meaning – the strange need to turn molehills into mountains. So, here’s to those who are committed to telling the truth. They offer an example that deserves our gratitude.

Prominent among those truth-tellers today are the women who are coming forward to report sexual misconduct. Their determination to speak up not only creates the possibility for a measure of justice, but is changing the conversation about sexual abuse. That has been a long time in coming and we all can be thankful that it is happening.

Are there challenges? Yes, of course, and for many of them, we can also be grateful. Not only are they inevitable, but they create the opportunity do better.

Finally, here’s a Thanksgiving toast to those who, whatever their challenges, insist upon a grateful heart. They are the people who understand that just about any stress we may encounter still leaves us with much to appreciate. That way lies happiness.

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