Why we all should count our blessings in spite of life's trials
This has been the week of Thanksgiving, especially in the US where it is associated partly with the Pilgrim Fathers, but it is also celebrated in other countries as well.
Thanksgiving also has deeply religious roots, and the Old and New Testaments have many exhortations about gratitude. In Northern Ireland, however, thanksgiving is not one of our most noticeable qualities.
We have, of course, a beautiful Thanksgiving statue on a world globe beside the Lagan in Belfast, as a reminder to us to be thankful generally, though with typical Belfast wit some people refer to this figure as The Doll on the Ball.
Sadly we have too many gurners in our midst, and nearly every television and radio political "discussion" soon develops into a dogfight.
As soon as some of the participants are announced, I groan, and switch over. The names, though anonymous here, are familiar - and you know who I'm writing about.
Our lack of thankfulness is obvious in so many ways, including sport. Recently the two Irish national football teams reached the final of a major championship for the first time.
Instead of rejoicing, this has been turned into a political circus at Belfast City Council which has scored more own goals than any group of its size on the planet.
Some narrow-minded people are objecting to a joint reception in the City Hall, an event that would be welcomed by football fans in all parts of Ireland. Perhaps our political leaders can knock some sense into their blinkered councillors before we once again become the laughing-stock of the land.
There is also a great deal of sniping about the Stormont "Fresh Start" Agreement that most people should welcome for what it is - a fresh start, after all the bickering.
Sadly this is not good enough for some of our politicians who seem intent on tearing it apart, mostly for party political reasons.
However, lest I fall into my own trap of undue negativity, let me outline some of the many things for which I am immensely grateful.
These include a happy family circle, as well as loyal friends over many years, and - very important - reasonably sturdy health despite, at times, too many aches and pains. I am also immensely grateful for Northern Ireland people from all backgrounds, and in general for their kindness and humour despite all the challenges we have had, and still have.
I am also greatly appreciative of the immense variety of wonderful scenery in our small province, and one of my joys all the year round is being able to soak in the beauty of the Cave Hill and of Belfast Lough, from the back of our home.
In cultural terms, Northern Ireland is well off, and, despite the severe cutbacks, it is great to see how the Linen Hall Library, the Ulster Orchestra and the Queen's Film Theatre, to mention only three, are continuing to manage in difficult times.
In the last two weeks my wife and I have seen superb movies in the QFT - including Brooklyn and The Lady In The Van, both of which I recommend.
So at the end of Thanksgiving week, I urge you to count your own blessings, despite the challenges that you no doubt face. Gratitude it is at the heart of our being, so think carefully of at least three things for which you should be profoundly grateful. If you can do that, you will be following a deeply spiritual tradition, and it may make you happier as well.