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Our Views: Need a reason to be grateful? Here's a few

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Forgetting about what makes Thanksgiving great is easy when recalling last year’s clash with the in-laws, long lines at the airport or the annual post-pumpkin pie peek at the bathroom scale.

It’s a cliché to say, but if we don’t express our gratitude now, when will we? Certainly not amid the 2018 elections. Let’s put aside the holiday squabbles, slights and sanctimony and focus on how fortunate we are to have family, the ability to travel and enough food to fill our tummies.

If you’re still having trouble thinking of reasons to be grateful—perhaps because your refrigerator broke down one day before you’re expecting 20 guests—we’ve made a small list for you.

Feel the gratitude overflowing as you say, “Yeah, I am fortunate. Maybe life isn’t as bad as this busted refrigerator wants me to believe.”

A rip-roaring economy. It’s not like a post-World War II boom, but unemployment is near record lows in Rock County, and the problem now seems to be a labor shortage. The economic resurgence has boosted downtown Janesville, which for years has played the role of neglected stepchild. The ARISE initiative proved it’s for real this year, with a town square opening only about a block from a proposed four-story, 33,000-square-foot hotel just west of the Rock River along Milwaukee Street. Several new companies and restaurants have moved into the area, while a new business improvement district, or BID, will allow property owners to promote the downtown and capitalize on its momentum.

Milton schools. The rancor surrounding this month’s failed referendum might have left the wrong impression about Milton schools. New state report cards show the district is performing well academically. Four of seven Milton schools “significantly exceed expectations,” one “exceeds expectations,” while two others “meet expectations.” The superstar is Consolidated Elementary, which had the highest score, 98.7, of any elementary school in the state.

Yes, the district has facility problems, as school officials have repeatedly noted over the past several years. But it’s important for voters, educators and parents to celebrate the district for what it is and does. The challenges facing Milton schools—from overcrowding to aging infrastructure—haven’t stopped teachers from delivering or students from receiving a top-notch education.

ECHO and GIFTS Men’s Shelter. Kudos to city officials for reminding us about priorities as part of reporter Jake Magee’s Sunday story, “Starting a conversation about homelessness.” These officials are right: We sometimes lose perspective in the city council chamber, giving attention to controversies while ignoring chronic problems afflicting the most vulnerable residents.

Fortunately, Janesville has a dedicated group of volunteers, nonprofit agencies and churches striving to reduce homelessness. More than just a food pantry, the charity ECHO has evolved to provide many services to combat homelessness. At the GIFTS Men’s Shelter, volunteers from area churches work with clients to develop life skills and form a plan to get off the streets. If you have a home to celebrate Thanksgiving, consider yourself blessed.

The occasional kind Sound Off comment. Tucked underneath those weekly screeds about Janesville leaf collection, Donald Trump’s draft deferments or kneeling for the national anthem is the occasional kind comment. It takes patience to spot one, like a hunter waiting for a deer to emerge from behind a tree. But once you find one, it’s proof the world isn’t completely falling apart. What joy to learn about the lovely couple who paid for a total stranger’s bill at the World Buffet. How great to know that people stop to help others who’ve fallen on the ice or in their gardens, lifting them to their feet. And there must be a legion of angels at Woodman’s returning lost wallets and, of course, without taking a single dollar from the billfold.

For every unfortunate event, there’s an opportunity to become that Good Samaritan and document it in Sound Off.



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