All over America this Thanksgiving, the majority of our families gathered at the festive board, observing the day in keeping with their own particular customs and interpretations of the day.

As Americans, we have much for which to give thanks as we head into the holiday season. When we find ourselves on the easy road to criticism, negativism and general complaint that much of the population follows, we should pause to take stock.Now and again when I begin to see everything in shades of gray, I recall that I have a potato peeler. My mother never had a potato peeler. When I was young and the job of peeling potatoes fell to me, I had to use a big butcher knife that tended to take a lot of the potato along with the peel.

Thanks for potato peelers.

I've never been bitten by a snake. That's amazing when you consider how many snakes I think there are in the world. I often jump into bed from 6 feet out because I have visions of snakes under the bed just waiting to chomp into a tender calf - mine.

Thanks that the number of snakes in the world - and under my bed - is infinitely smaller than I think it is. Just as the great majority of the demons that plague my peace don't really exist.

When the wind blows and the snow swirls around like wisps of gauze, I sit in my house with its central heating and watch through my double windows. And in summer when the mercury hits the top of the thermometer, I bask in the coolness of conditioned air.

Thanks for modern furnaces and air conditioners.

While thousands of others in the world go to bed hungry, while their children bloat and wither and die, I have the dubious trial of keeping my weight within bounds and the sometimes irksome task of feeding my children and grandchildren as they rotate in and out of my house. What quirk of fate chose me for the one and they for the other?

Thanks for bounteous supermarket shelves and the wherewithal to fill my basket.

There are days when my work assignment - covering education in the state of Utah - seems onerous and overwhelming. Trying to stay abreast of the multifaceted problems and the controversial proposals for resolution of those problems is like waltzing on quicksand.

Then I think of an adobe school in southern Mexico where barefoot children sit at handmade wooden benches and share a handful of books. I think of hundreds of thousands of children in countries where war, want and ignorance are daily fare, or where education is only for the rich.

And I say thanks, thanks, thanks for education in this country.

With all its warts and wants, I say thanks for the American system that tries to provide for every child.

Thanks, in fact, for the challenges education faces in this country. If sometimes we fall short, that's the manifestation of the risks in a system that tries to do so much.

I have faith in the ingenuity that made America a leader in the world. I'm not ready yet to join the doomsayers who predict the decline and fall of the United States.

Thanks for the good people who man education's front lines - the teachers and administrators and supporters who see education's failings and stay at their posts, working for change.

Every day that I wake up without having been snake-bit, I realize there's plenty of hope for this old world.

As long as there is education.