A time for family, a time for strength

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Find the best of America around the dinner table this week and beyond.

SOMETIMES, IN THE CONSTANT hustle of day-to-day life and a torrent of confusing and often demoralizing news developments, it's easy to get a sense that America is at peril and the future is in doubt.

Too many people are not getting ahead. Technology is moving so fast it's hard for people to keep up. A certifiable maniac is threatening nuclear holocaust in North Korea. Terrorism remains a threat. Nuts routinely decide to shoot up schools and churches and concerts and other seemingly safe places. From politics to race to gender to economic status many Americans are daggers-drawn toward each other.

One may be forgiven for wondering if there's any way to put the "United" back in the United States.

THIS TRADITIONAL WEEK and what follows can provide an emphatic answer "yes" to that.

And here's why.

The basic building block of America and, indeed, liberty is the family. It's parents caring more for their children than they care for themselves. It's always knowing somebody has your back. It's being assured there is a safe place to rest and lay down one's burdens, if only for awhile. It's that sense of well-being that only comes with giving and receiving love.

The period from Thanksgiving through Christmas arguably is one of the most important each year for re-setting the American climate, recognizing that things just aren't as bad as some might suggest. So long as the foundations of freedom and family are secure, the future always should be hopeful.

IT'S ALSO A TIME when individuals take stock, realizing that their good fortune may not be shared by others.

That's why the holiday season is crucial to so many nonprofits designed to serve people in need. Such organizations count on the goodwill and empathy that builds during the season of caring, to open people's hearts and encourage giving.

Not everyone has family to share the bounty of the season, or to look out for them the rest of the year. Children, in particular, should be viewed as society's responsibility when they are growing up in difficult circumstances. Part of the American spirit is a willingness to stretch beyond one's own situation to reach out and help others.

There are plenty of opportunities this time of year to give the gift of one's own efforts, aimed at improving the lives of those who need it most. We encourage families, as they gather, to give some thought to how to share.

FINALLY, IT'S WORTH a few words about America's political divisions. Yes, we know, the best strategy at the family table is to avoid the topics of politics and religion.

So consider this a nonpartisan suggestion.

Nothing is more American, in our free and open society, than differing on politics. In fact, it's one of the greatest freedoms - the opportunity to stand up for what you believe in, rather than cower under the thumb of autocratic power.

Here's a gentle thought to ponder during this season of togetherness and renewal. Disagree agreeably. Stop thinking about those who see the world from a little different perspective as the enemy. Recognize instead that they are your friends and neighbors. Choose to believe - as the Founders did - that liberty is best safeguarded when free people express themselves respectfully and resolve to work out their differences peaceably and through compromise.

Change the tone. Start with yourself. And give thanks for this great, free country that allows all of us that opportunity.

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