Giving thanks in a tough time
Johnny Mack Morrow
Franklin County Times
There is an old Indian saying that if you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and with the economic turmoil and the uncertainly every family feels right now, it can seem pretty hard to find things to be thankful for.
Alabama is feeling the pinch just like everyone else.
In September, the state's unemployment rate increased to 5.3 percent from the August rate of 4.9 percent.
Unlike most states, Alabama recorded a net increase of jobs during the month of September, even as the overall unemployment rate rose.
The employment picture isn't uniform across the state, and it is very low in places like Baldwin and Madison Counties and very high in the Black Belt.
However, the state's overall unemployment rate is almost a point lower than the national average and very low by our state's historic measures.
Yet it still represents thousands of families who need and want work. You can't eat history. You need a paycheck to put food on the table.
What about that food? Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is known more for what is put on the table.
One area of the state that has been a brighter spot is agriculture. Farmers across the state had better yields in 2008 than in 2007.
While prices may be lower than they were for the larger crops of corn, soybeans, and cotton, a rise in production is a welcome sight after such disappointing harvests in recent years.
The reason for greater yields was because of the easing of drought conditions this year. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor Survey, Alabama improved its situation.
While the vast majority of the state still remains in some form of drought status, it is nowhere near the severity of last year.
We still have a lot of work to do in planning how to preserve and manage water, just like we need to plan on how to get over this tough patch economically.
Wherever we can save, we must save.
On that front, news has come that the Tennessee Valley Authority will soon cut electricity rates by about 6 percent because of lower fuel costs.
That is some needed relief to customers in north Alabama, and while there is no word about Alabama Power and other electrical cooperatives in other areas of the state also lowering rates, the continued drop in fuel costs could mean a reduction in everyone's electrical bills.
Thanksgiving is also one of the largest travel holidays of the year, and the falling prices at the gas pump couldn't happen at a better time.
The cost of a gallon of gas is about half of what it was during the summer, and estimates show it will remain there for the foreseeable future.
The concerns we all feel about the future make it all too easy to lose sight of what is good about the present.
We must look to our faith and hard work to overcome these troubled times, and to make sure we give thanks for the blessings we have.
Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.