There's nothing better on Thanksgiving Day than being surrounded by loved ones, usually while sharing a great meal.
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate all those things that make individuals' lives better, richer and more meaningful. Just as people should count their individual blessings today, so too should they take the time to reflect on all the things the community provides to enrich their lives:
People should be thankful for the many dedicated and devoted public employees who are out there every day, even today, to make sure this community is safe. They patrol the streets, staff the firehouses, run the jails, respond to medical emergencies and more.
They should also be thankful for the folks who work for the cities and county to make sure basic services operate smoothly and effectively day in and day out, as well as those who are elected to oversee those efforts.
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Residents should be thankful for the way people already came together this holiday season to make sure the mission and other charities have the food and the support, financial and volunteer, to deliver services to all those in need.
Parents should be thankful for the Merced Union High School District's efforts to raise graduation rates, especially among Latino students. It was recently recognized nationally for having one of the top programs in the country.
They should also be thankful for all the teachers who have toiled to bring up test scores at schools throughout the county, from McSwain Elementary to Planada Elementary -- to name just a few. The high schools were top performers, too.
Young people should be thankful for Merced College and all the programs it offers those making their initial foray into higher education. Often uncertain if they belong there or where it will lead them, the college's students are provided a smooth transition into the larger academic world -- and beyond.
UC Merced is another educational gem that residents should treasure. It brings a level of educational excellence, groundbreaking research and continuing expansion to an underserved region. Where once far too many thought a University of California education was beyond their grasp, today it's part of Merced's landscape.
That talent is not limited to the classroom. The 53rd annual Central California Band Review held earlier this month at Merced's Golden Valley High School brought in 33 middle school and high school bands, filling the city with music and gifted young musicians.
Something else to be thankful for is the support Merced communities show their veterans, with Merced's annual parade attracting hundreds who came out despite the weather to show their respect.
And the list goes on.
But in the end, the thing to be most thankful for is the people of Merced. Whether it's returning a lost yellow purse to its owner, planting palm trees to beautify the community, nursing the sick or helping the needy, residents should give thanks they live in an area with so many good people who do so much good. It doesn't get any better than that.