Sometimes listing our gripes and outrages of the day is easier than to talk about what is going well. On a personal level this has been a great year for me, and for the world as a whole, despite some tragedies like the recent attack on Paris, we as a species have made some amazing strides that all of mankind should be thankful for.
What I Am Thankful For:
On a personal level, I am thankful that all of my kids are healthy and that my nephews are able to stay with us and I can play a large role in their lives. I am certainly thankful that Mrs. C. and I are able to balance our work schedules so that we don’t need daycare and that we can both make some decent money and have reasonable amounts of time off. I am thankful that this year we have been able to meet all of our financial goals by increasing our income by 25% and increasing our savings rate to over 33%.
I am thankful that for the past decade I have been living the American Dream. I am thankful that I have a warm house, a large yard, and even my own railroad bed. I am thankful for a fridge full of food and two cars in the garage. I am thankful that my parents instilled a solid work ethic in me and the basic idea of how to manage money. I still remember as a young kid listing off all the things I would do with a million bucks, and my Dad retorting that it makes much more sense to plan out how I will EARN a million bucks instead of how I will SPEND it.
In the macro sense, we have a ton to be thankful for:
In the 20th century mankind made amazing strides in disease elimination and eradication, especially in the U.S. The scourge of smallpox was eradicated form the Earth and Polio has been put on the ropes. In 2015 there have been 56 cases of Polio in two countries, vs. 290 cases in 9 countries in 2014. This year the Carter Center reports that through October only 20 cases of Guinea Worm disease have been reported. This is an 83% reduction from the 115 from last year and a 99.999% reduction since the Carter Center started its campaign in 1986 when there were 3.5 million cases per year. Both of these debilitating diseases are very close to being eradicated from the world forever, that is certainly something to be thankful for.
Just yesterday morning we heard the news that Blue Origin, the private space company owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos has reported that they have succeeded in launching a rocket into space and retrieving the rocket by landing it vertically, for future reuse. Being able to reuse rockets is a major milestone in the commercialization of space flight. Between Blue Origin and SpaceX it is entirely conceivable that in my lifetime tickets to space will be affordable for the common man. It’s unfathomable how quickly flight has developed, with the Wright brothers first flight only taking place a mere 112 years ago.
Speaking of Amazon, it’s just as amazing that we can order damn near anything from anywhere in the world and have it delivered in a couple days and that we can download millions of books in under 60 seconds. A mere 580 years ago, a blink of an eye in the total story of human history, books had to be copied by hand and only the super wealthy could afford to own one. Technology has become so cheap that they even have a $50 tablet! This is a technological revolution that has happened in a single generation. Think about how far personal computing has come in 30 years, its astonishing.
One thing we readily take for granted is the American grocery store. In the late 80s and early 90s our supermarkets were seen as a wonder by Soviet transplants. We are so accustomed to having year round produce from every corner of the globe and a variety of choices for even the most basic items. The idea that there is an entire aisle just for bread with literally hundreds of bread choices at supermarkets in even the smallest towns is remarkable. Relatively inexpensive food with a variety that not even the wealthiest kings had available a mere century ago is something to truly be thankful for.
Yesterday the highway was congested thanks to heavy fog. I took an exit I was unfamiliar with to bypass the traffic jam and by turning on my $100 GPS device I was able to find my destination with no problem. Having a system that anyone can tap into with a cheap device to locate any position and navigate any road in the world is another marvel of the modern age. Whenever I think of the GPS I think of one of the first Spanish expeditions to the interior of North American, the 1528 Narvaez expedition. The plan was to use “dead reckoning” to land in present day Mexico by sailing due West from Cuba and estimating the speed they are traveling by looking at the water passing below them. They had no knowledge of the gulf stream. Since they sailed for several days and saw land, they figured they had made it, unfortunately the sun started setting on the wrong side of the land and the expedition was seriously off from where they needed to be…by about 900 miles. They had actually landed on the West coast of present day Florida. In the end the 4 survivors of the expedition made their way to Mexico over a trek that took them 8 years. The whole story is cataloged in the book “A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca.” Think about these explorers the next time you plug in your GPS to realize how good you have it!
I’m Thankful For The American Experiment:
When it comes down to it I am truly thankful to live in the time and place of the experiment of economic freedom. For the most part, in the history of the world people have been divided into class systems. If you were born a peasant farmer, you would die a peasant farmer, if you were born an aristocrat you would die an aristocrat.
We live in a world where a guy can start selling books out of his garage and 21 years later his space flight company achieves what NASA deemed impossible. Let that sink in for a minute.
And most importantly, we live in a world where a guy who works in a giant freezer can earn enough money to support a family and retire as a relatively young man, hopefully by the age of 45.
What are you thankful for this year?