Thanksgiving, our unfettered holiday

The local economy continues to struggle. It seems since forever that it was growing robustly in these parts. Hard to believe now, but the jobless rate for the Norwich-New London labor force was 2.2 percent in 2000.

As a recently as 2007 things were still pretty good, with a jobless figure of 4.3 percent, a number that had held relatively steady for several previous years, with small moves up and down.

Then the Great Recession struck, the national economic decline exacerbated locally by a decline in employment at the region's two tribal casinos, downsizing by Pfizer, and a tanking real estate market.

That recession came later to Connecticut and this region and stuck around longer, the jobless rate peaking at 9.8 percent in January 2011. It is better now, but not a lot. Growing demands placed on local food pantries and on agencies trying to find gifts for people who can't afford them this coming Christmas season testify to that. Many are underemployed, not able to find jobs with the pay or the hours necessary to pay all the bills.

So on this Thanksgiving Day 2013, what is there for which to be thankful?

As always, plenty.

There are indications of green shoots. October's jobless rate was 8.1 percent (updated figures delayed by the government shutdown, something not be thankful about). A recent report from the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board concluded that the region's economy is rebounding, albeit slowly, adding 600 jobs in the last several months. Home sales and new home construction are also up.

In any event, it is not all about the economy. The beauty of the region is something to be thankful about, with its seashore, scenic country roads, its small cities and quaint villages. A region populated by a diverse, charitable citizenry. Many live here because they like it here, challenges and all.

Also important to be thankful for are the people in our lives, the chance to share time, stories, laughs and sorrows.

Most fundamentally, this is what the American Thanksgiving is about, a time for families and for friends to come together, share a meal, mindful of things to be appreciative about, even during times of hardship - freedom certainly among them.

Thanksgiving is so wonderfully unfettered. It does not divide by religion. There are no gifts to buy. Until recently, there was little buying and selling. The fact that greed is changing that part of the equation is distressing.

So don't shop today. Be thankful. Spend the time with loved ones. Perhaps if enough of us stay home the stores will not open on future Thanksgivings.

A farfetched wish, perhaps, but not so outlandish on a holiday that is supposed to remind us of what really is important.

Enjoy the food, family friends and football. Tone down the use of mobile devices. Live in the moment. It's Thanksgiving. You only get so many.

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