It has been a couple of months since we observed the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and by now it is clear these attacks significantly changed the way we relate to the rest of the world.
What is less clear is how the attacks changed the American psyche. In the short term, they left us all feeling less secure in our homes and towns. We felt like targets of individuals who make no distinction between combatants and noncombatants, give no warning of their intent to attack and offer no quarter or mercy. And, perhaps most disconcerting, they may be the people we sit next to on an airplane, pass when we walk down the street or even our own neighbors.
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We may still feel that life is much less predictable. This particularly struck me when I sat down to write this column. I usually try to work at least a few weeks ahead of schedule in getting my pieces to my editor. As I considered what I wanted to say about Thanksgiving, I had the nagging thought that whatever I wrote could become instantly irrelevant, or even uncomfortably inappropriate, because of some unanticipated act of terrorism.
As I've thought more about it, I've realized that security is actually one of the things I have always been thankful for at Thanksgiving.
I certainly feel gratitude for the luxuries I enjoy -- a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes on my back and a job I enjoy. In the past few years when so many have questioned the security of even these basics, I am more aware of how thankful I am.
I also have a family that loves and cares for me, friends who support and encourage me and, at this moment, we are all relatively healthy and happy, which should never be taken for granted.
I am grateful for a God who is part of my life in a clear and meaningful way. I am also grateful that I live in a nation that tries to live by the rule of law and was founded on principles I value and respect.
What is missing for me in 2011, then, is just that sense of security that I have been thankful for in the past. It's not that I'm concerned all that much with my own security, though I do have an anxious moment or two when it comes to paying the bills each month.
My primary sense of insecurity has more to do with the well-being -- actually the psychological well-being -- of this country and its people. We have been a nation of optimists. Though at times our optimism has been more than a bit misguided, for the most part it has served us well. For all our problems, we have come a lot farther than anyone ever imagined we would. Though Thanksgiving originally was established as a time to acknowledge our gratitude for past blessings, I think it also has come to be an expression of our optimism as to our future blessings as individuals and as a nation. Let's face it: These days it's just not as easy to feel as optimistic about those future blessings as we once did.
This year, then, no matter what happens between the time I write this column and when it is printed, I suggest we take this Thanksgiving Day observance and make it a time of counting our blessings in the here and now, without any assumptions about the future.
I am not talking about abandoning our optimism, but rather recognizing the reality of the times in which we live. As the saying goes, "Be mindful of the moment."
• The Rev. Ken Potts' book "Mix, Don't Blend: A Guide to Dating, Engagement, and Remarriage with Children" is available through retailers.