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When I was young, I remember my mother offering some great words of wisdom when I would complain about things that didn’t go my way or vent my frustration about what didn’t seem fair. She would listen patiently and say, “Remember to count your blessings.” It was her way of reminding me that despite the ups and downs of daily life, I had far more to be thankful for than I have ever had to complain about.

I try to think of her advice when I become cynical or frustrated by the gridlock and partisanship of Washington. I try to think of her advice when I watch friends struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues to lag, family budgets continue to shrink, and health insurance rates continue to increase. Yet, in spite of the serious challenges our country faces, we remain uniquely blessed to live in America and have much for which to be thankful.

Our state and nation have a rich history of pausing each year to give thanks for all that we have been given. We are thankful to live in a country where we can freely worship our Creator and speak our minds without fear. We are thankful to live in a state where family, friends, and neighbors help one another during the good times and the bad. We are thankful for the brave men and women who proudly serve our country defending the freedoms we hold dear.

Thanksgiving is not only a time to give thanks, but it is also a time to express our gratitude through acts of goodwill and charity. Consider volunteering in your community. Help wash the dishes after dinner. Throw a football with your siblings and laugh about the trouble you made as kids. Ask a veteran to share stories of a Thanksgiving spent overseas while in the military and remember the families of the men and women stationed abroad who won’t be sharing this Thanksgiving with those they love.

As I take this time to count my many blessings, I remain thankful for my wonderful family, for the men and women who continue to defend our freedoms around the globe, and for the opportunity to continue to serve our state in the U.S. Senate. I want to wish all South Dakotans and their families a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.