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Everyday Americans Express Gratitude

For most Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday means a traditional turkey feast with family and friends, and a moment's pause to feel and express gratitude for the gifts life has given them, even during tough times. VOA's Adam Phillips took to the streets of New York City to talk to people about what they are grateful for this year and why.

It's Thanksgiving Week in New York, and the weather has turned cold. Still, it's warm and cozy inside the Sip Café on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Proprietor Mathew Hecht says he has lots to be thankful for, despite the financial challenges he and other small business owners in the city are grappling with. He says he's grateful for his job and his family's support.

"In the morning, when I wake up and I'm all nervous, they can remind me to relax and to keep doing what I'm doing," he says.

With a half-smile, Hecht adds, "Like any family, there are times when they make me want to pull my hair out. But they are fantastic human beings."

It seems that just being born as a human being makes Chhodon thankful. The young Tibetan-American works in her mother's art gallery and gift shop.

"In my [Buddhist] culture… you wake up every morning and say you're grateful for [the opportunity of] a precious human life," she says.

When asked what she is grateful for in her own human life, Chhodon answers without hesitation, "I'm grateful… for having good health, having good friends, family, knowing how to cook, eating good food, having a lovely dog, [and] having a work environment where I get to meet many interesting and fun-loving people."

Across the counter, customer Jane Troy has the political environment on her mind this Thanksgiving.

"I am extraordinarily grateful to have Obama as my president; it makes this Thanksgiving unlike any in a very long time," says Troy.

When asked to describe the feeling of this moment in history, she says, "It's a feeling of openness and happiness and almost like a generosity of spirit… [both] in the air [and] from Obama and from the fact we have turned a corner that is so necessary."

Just around the literal corner, an older woman named Jonal shuffles along Broadway, toting her few possessions in a rickety wheeled cart.

"I'm homeless, and I am blessed," she says. "Every day that I open up my eyes, somebody is not. So I am grateful for that."

When Jonal is asked to share the secret of her attitude, she says, "I don't look at the things I don't have. I look at the things that are yet to come. I love life. And life loves me."

Inside his framing shop down the street, Turkish American Nabil Bukhari says he is grateful above all to Allah, because he gave him life.

"Being alive by itself is just the beginning of being grateful for everything else," he says.

Gratitude for all of life is a laudable, even essential virtue. But sometimes, very particular times and places can make one feel thankful. For Judy, that can be lunch hour at Zabar's, one of New York's most famous delicatessens, and New York itself.

"Eating a lemon poppy seed muffin with coffee, in the sunshine, on the Upper West Side, what could be better?" she queries between nibbles.

Judy is also grateful for New York City itself.

"The architecture, buildings and the doorways and the people, too, of course," she adds with a sly twinkle.

It's hard to miss the smiles on the faces of "JR" and his friend "Natural" as they sweep the street in their bright blue uniforms. They are part of a work program for ex-offenders who have recently been released.

"And basically, I'm grateful for just being free. Life is good, man," says JR, who says the bad choices he made years ago are now far behind him.

"Now," he says, "I got this program I am working for. I'm waking up every morning going to work being a productive member of society. I'm grateful for that!"

His buddy "Natural" also says he's happy to be "on the outside" and, "I'm happy to be in America. I've had my ups and downs, but so far, I'm getting everything together as we speak now, and I'm grateful for that."

Suddenly Natural remembers something that causes his eyes to light up even brighter.

"And, plus, Thanksgiving is coming! Hey, everybody! Happy Thanksgiving! Good food! I'm ready to get it!"

The physicist Albert Einstein once said, "There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing were a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

This Thanksgiving, Americans can be mindful once again of their choice.