There's still plenty to be thankful for, right?
Sure, your life savings are shrinking, unemployment is rising and the Dodgers could lose Manny Ramirez.
But it could be worse. You could be sick or alone, or risking your life in Iraq and Afghanistan while Pentagon officials look for new ways to deny medical coverage to injured soldiers.
On Monday, I made a little sign -- "Penny for Your Thoughts: What Are You Thankful for" -- and set it on a table at the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles. Videographer Sachi Cunningham and I had no idea what to expect, but a steady stream of volunteers took a seat and held forth.
Three hours later, I realized how thankful I am too, but I'll get to that later.
Among my first customers were brother and sister Renzo and Coco Backus, 6 and 8, who were grateful their parents wouldn't force them to eat turkey.
"Blecchhh!" they said in unison, with Coco insisting she wouldn't touch the stuff, not even for a thousand dollars.
I offered a hundred thousand.
"I wouldn't eat it for anything."
Charles Bragg, a 78-year-old artist with a black bowler hat and white beads, didn't hesitate when asked what he's grateful for.
"I'm thankful that I went broke three years ago," he said. "I don't feel the pain that everyone else is having."
His friend Ronnie Schell, a comic and actor, said he was grateful for four things.
Family first. Health second.
"And I'm old, and I forget the other two."
"I have a lousy leg," said Anne Chernak, who stepped gingerly with the help of a cane, "but thank God I'm still able to get around."
Retired computer consultant Bruce McCormick, 73, beat prostate cancer 10 years ago.
"I'm very happy to be alive," he said, and grateful for 33 years with his wife.
I spotted the LAPD bomb squad nearby and asked if anybody was grateful for anything in particular.
"Fingers," one officer cracked.
His colleague, Det. Ron Capra, said he was glad about the successful surgical removal of his skin cancer recently.
Capra soon had something else to be thankful for.
He was in the middle of telling me a story about how he used to work at Bob's Doughnuts in the market after school at Daniel Murphy High. At the end of each shift, he scored a free chocolate cake doughnut with sprinkles.
As he shared the memory, Bob Tusquellas -- his former boss -- came over with that very doughnut and set it in front of him.
Tusquellas goes back a ways too. He worked at his father's butcher shop in the market starting at the age of 11. He couldn't see the customers over the counter so they made him assistant bacon slicer, and today he owns the fish market, fish restaurant and doughnut shop.
What's he grateful for?
"I'm thankful that I have a job," Tusquellas said. Business is down a bit, but he doesn't want to let a single one of his 20 employees go. "I want them to have a job so they have something to be thankful for."
Shem Bitterman won the Pen USA Literary Award for Drama last month for his
play "Harm's Way," but he's most grateful for something else.
"Obama," he said. "I think it's the most positive thing that has happened in this nation in 30 years."
I could have listened to Fred Steinberg all day as he talked about the Los Angeles of the 1940s. He and his mother traveled all over town by bus and rail. They came to the Farmers Market, they watched vaudeville at the grand old downtown theaters, and they took in live radio shows in Hollywood.
And he's thankful for?
"Just being an American," said the son of Polish immigrants who married in Los Angeles during Thanksgiving week 1934.
Renishia Toney, 9, was in town for the American Miss Pageant, and wore a "Cover Girl" banner across her chest.
What's that mean? I asked.
"I'm royalty," Renishia said.
Her Royal Highness said she was thankful for, among other things, "eating, living and to have all my senses." As for the holiday, she didn't know where or how she'd celebrate.
"Expect the unexpected," she said.
Abe Wadler wore a hat that said "Sew What!!" He said it was a conversation starter, but he didn't want to talk to me about Thanksgiving. He kept hovering as I spoke to others, though, and finally came around.
"I reached my 90th birthday, which they say is the hardest, and the second 90 will be easier."
Has life been good?
"Yes and no," Wadler said.
He grew up not having to worry about food or shelter. That was the easy part.
"The hard part is now, because I'm alone, and everything is on my own."
Wadler's wife passed away 18 years ago, and the simple pleasure of idle hours at the market became all the more meaningful. Wadler boards the 720 bus four days a week, takes the same table near Bob's Doughnuts, and talks with his stand-in family of friends and strangers.
"The less time I stay home, I feel better. Because when you stay home and look at the four walls you start thinking of the olden days and it makes you very sad."