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Editorial: Americans still have much to be thankful for

Thanks to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, the past couple of years have really been tough on Americans.

People have lost their jobs, their homes and all or major shares of their retirement savings.

With the unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, most people who still have their jobs know someone who lost theirs thanks to the recession, and feel insecure about their future.

Our pain rippled through the world's economy, intensifying as it spread, until most other nations -- both industrialized and less developed -- shared our infection. When the U.S. gets an economic cold, many other countries catch pneumonia.

What has happened to the economy has really shaken folks.

In the past few weeks, however, events overseas have shown us that nearly all of us have a lot to be thankful for.

An earthquake hit Haiti.

It flattened Port-au-Prince and killed tens of thousands, in a place where most people were already struggling to survive, not from day to day, but from meal to meal.

In a country where there hasn't been a significant earthquake that anyone alive could remember, people with any resources at all devoted them to the more typical problem, hurricanes.

But a heavy building made to resist storms will mean all the more weight to crash down on its occupants in a quake.

Chileans learned they had to build for earthquakes long ago, but the trembler that hit in the early morning hours a week ago was historic even by the standards of that South American nation.

While the death toll was a fraction of Haiti's, an estimated half million homes were destroyed. Roads were also severely damaged making assistance difficult in a long, narrow country bordered by mountains and the Pacific.

As in Haiti, aid has come from neighboring nations and elsewhere, including the U.S.

In west central Minnesota, we found out that, even though Haiti and Chile are far away, people in our communities have close ties to those countries.

If our neighbors know them, doesn't that make Haitians and Chileans our neighbors too?

And just as many of us have helped our neighbors in these hard economic times, many have donated to the Red Cross and other agencies to help Chile and Haiti.

It's the least those of us who have the means can do.

After all, events like the quakes in Haiti and Chile help us regain our gratitude for what we have and what we haven't had to endure.

Such events teach us that although life can be tough here, it can get a lot tougher elsewhere.