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What I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving 

Thanksgiving is here once again, and I must say that this year has been a good one. Heck, every year is a good one for me because regardless of what happens, I always see a light at the end of the tunnel. My best friend Cindy calls me an eternal optimist, which belies what I often write about in this space.

We spend so much time (at least I do), complaining about what isn't -- as opposed to celebrating what is. Despite the ideological issues that I have with Thanksgiving, I am finding that as I get older, the meaning of the holiday itself is more important than rehashing the same argument. Instead of going off about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, I have decided to focus on why I'm thankful this Thanksgiving.

The birth of another goddaughter and a new niece: They are beautiful, delicate, alert and have the entire world in front of them. I cannot wait to see who they will become and am ecstatic that they are healthy and happy. I am thankful to have them in my life and hopeful for the new godchild who is on the way.

A wonderful family: My older sister pretty much rocks. She is a fantastic person, mother and friend. If I need anything, I can always call on her. She has my back 1,000-plus percent. Even though we drive each other crazy sometimes, I can depend on her ALWAYS. My baby sister is young and gentle and hell-bent on living her life the way that she wants. I'm thankful for her because she reminds me to be patient, to think of someone other than myself and to be less judgmental. My dad is a cool dude who always offers great advice and insight into life's challenges. I'm thankful that he keeps it real and continues to boost me up, even when I'm down. I literally stood on his shoulders as a child and feel like I'm still standing there as an adult. He never let me fall then, and he doesn't let me fall now.

The fact that my mother is alive: Last year was a doozy, and the beginning of this year was rough as well in terms of her struggle with health issues. I wasn't sure that she would be here, but she pulled through and is looking more and more like her former self each time that I see her. I'm thankful that I had the time off to make sure that she was OK. What would I do without my first best friend?

A great set of friends: They are truly fantastic. They keep me informed, engaged and in check most of the time. When you travel and move a lot, it's hard to maintain friendships and even harder to find new ones. I must admit that I'm not interested in finding new friends at this age and stage of the game, but am always thankful and pleasantly surprised when they appear. I'm thankful for Facebook for helping me to reconnect with friends from the past. Who knew that a social networking Web site that I fought joining every step of the way would make such a difference in my life?

Discernment as a real skill: I have been able to make some pretty tough decisions personally and professionally this year, and it is because of my ability to discern between what's real and what's fake. I think I saved myself a lot of drama and foolishness this year by paying attention to my gut, what people do as opposed to what they say, and how I am treated in response to how I treat others. I am thankful that my discernment helped this year be a good one.

Having the means to help others: Service to the community is near and dear to my heart -- it is a core part of who I am. If I am not donating time, money, skills or energy to an important group or cause, then I feel out of balance. I am thankful that I am able to make a difference in the lives of others.

The completion of my documentary on the public servants' strike in South Africa: It was a long, arduous process, but we finally have a rough cut. I am thankful for my editor Dan who made it his life mission, like mine, to bring this story to the screen and to LaJerne for making it possible through her contacts and supreme organizational skills. I am thankful for Christine Jantjie for helping us get access to who and what we needed to make something real and not imagined.

Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.: Dr. H. Beecher Hicks Jr. speaks knowledge, wisdom and truth. He brought me back to church, which I had rejected because of charlatans and pretenders. I'm thankful for his vision, intellect, commitment and concern for the community. I'm thankful for being able to plainly see and experience the true value of having religion in my life.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is managing editor of TheLoop21.com. She is an assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and writes the blog Tune N (http://nsengaburton.wordpress.com), which examines popular culture through the lens of race, class, gender and sexuality.

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