Maybe, just maybe, one positive side of the last couple of years of tough economic news is that we have learned to take fewer things for granted.

Maybe, just maybe, one positive side of the last couple of years of tough economic news is that we have learned to take fewer things for granted.

It’s not just economic prosperity, and make no mistake: Our standard of living is still higher than that of many around the world.

It’s more basic than that. We flip a switch and the lights come on. We turn the tap and clean water flows. We walk down the aisles of the grocery store to find, for example, all the things needed for today’s Thanksgiving feast and we find not only abundance but a wide range of choice. Those are things that hundreds of millions of people around the world can only dream of.

We vote on issues and leaders. Universal education is a given. We are free to speak or remain silent, free to worship or not, free to start a business and succeed or fail. In many other places, that is not the case.

Yes, it’s true that we also gripe and shirk. Many do not vote but still complain that our leaders cannot devise simple, painless solutions to complex, costly problems. We expect fair trials but scheme to skip jury duty. We wring our hands at the plight of the poor but often expect someone else to help. We could do better. We could always do better.

Still, our fundamental strength is this: Even in tough times, we expect to push ahead. Just look around locally. The Independence schools have absorbed and improved half a dozen long-neglected schools in the western part of the community, to the permanent benefit of the area. Businesses have closed this year, but others have opened too. Blue Springs, for example, is getting real traction in attracting retailers. Independence has just opened an arena the community will use and enjoy for generations. Our local libraries are not just holding the line but improving.

Yes, the economy causes prudent moments of pause, recalculation and sometimes delay, but the underlying assumption of progress remains. We want our children and grandchildren to have it better than we do.

Progress takes effort and a constancy of purpose. It is wise to reflect for a moment and give thanks for the community’s many blessings. It is wise to reflect on the work and sacrifice of previous generations. It is also wise to look ahead with determination and hope.