There’s lots to be thankful for in Mississippi

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My annual thanksgiving column is the easiest of the year to write, because we have so much to be thankful for.

Human beings are a special combination of spiritual and material. We Mississippians are blessed in both realms.

Spiritually, Mississippi is the most religious state in the union, according to a Gallup Poll. Fifty-eight percent of Mississippians consider themselves very religious. The least religious states were Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where 20 percent consider themselves very religious.

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We have churches on every street. Mississippians give more per capita than any other state. That’s largely reflective of our commitment to tithe.

Materially, we are also blessed. There is no other place in the world with a temperate climate and ample rainfall that has such a low population density.

We enjoy the change of seasons, as the beautiful fall foliage of this November attests, yet every season is mild and pleasant.

I suppose we could complain about the heat of our four-month-long summer, but with air conditioned cars and homes and swimming pools, lakes and swimming holes, that’s really pressing it.

Most people don’t realize the average high in August is only 90 degrees and the average nightly temperature in August is a pleasant 75.

Most of our state is covered in forests. According to a Mississippi State 2012 study,  hunting, fishing and wildlife watching is a $2.7 billion industry. Poultry is a $2.3 billion industry. Timber, corn and soybeans are billion dollar industries. Cotton is $397 million. Cattle is $329 million. Catfish, hay, wheat, rice and hogs each produce over $100 million. Sweet potatoes, milk, peanuts and sorghum produce over $50 million. Overall, we produce $7.5 billion just from the land.

I heard recently Mississippi has a problem with an overabundance of wild hogs. Say what? I just had a delicious dinner of grilled Mississippi wild boar soaked in olive oil. It was delicious. We are so blessed that we complain about an overabundance of meat. We shoot the hogs and leave them to rot in the field because it is too much of a hassle to take them to the processor.

All this agricultural abundance is 7.5 percent of our state’s GDP of $100 billion. Divided by our three million inhabitants, that’s $33,000 per capita and $82,500 per household of production.

If Mississippi was its own country, it would rank 18th in the world, excluding tiny countries like Bermuda and Brunei. Mississippi would rank above Spain, Italy, New Zealand and South Korea and barely behind France and Japan.

As we consider all these blessings, we need to ask why we have been so blessed and what responsibilities come with these blessings.

I do not think our mission should be bigger houses, fancier cars and more toys. We should use our resources to be a blessing to other nations which are struggling with dire poverty. Not through government programs, but through individual participation in church mission trips and charitable giving. We lead the world in this but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels.

Think about it: Not only do we have a perfect climate, abundant resources, more churches than anywhere in the world, but we have something far beyond all that – the most spiritual and charitable people in the world. How can Mississippians have an inferiority complex given this?

On top of all these blessings, we are blessed geographically — we are smack dab in the middle of the fastest growing region in the most affluent country in the history of the world.

The South is the fastest growing region of the United States. Mississippi is smack dab in the middle of the South. The United States is the most prosperous country in the history of the world.

When you think about Mississippi and all its blessings, it almost becomes unbelievable.

Our one great failing, of course, was the racial strife of 50 years ago. But look how we have redeemed ourselves. Mississippi has more African American elected officials, by far, than any other state in the country.

Mission Mississippi, a statewide group dedicated to racial reconciliation, and the Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes just concluded a crusade in which black and white students carried a cross through every county in the state. In each county, hundreds came out to celebrate racial reconciliation and to praise one another as brothers in Christ. Thousands of people were involved. The KKK was nowhere to be found. Not a sign. Not even a whimper.

Sadly, this poignant display of statewide racial reconciliation didn’t make a single national news outlet, but we know it represents the true heart of Mississippi — a heart of repentance, reconciliation and redemption. For this we should be so thankful.

So here’s my list of my great blessings. First, the biggies: The Godhead, the Bible, life, grace, love, faith, the earth, Ginny, health, food and water, family, freedom, friends, church, my country, my state.

The other major blessings: my job, education, communication, housing, transportation, leisure time, hobbies, humor and sports.

Now some minor blessings: air conditioning, pure water, wine, coffee, soft beds and cushy pillows, tennis, my Mustang, avocados, sushi, fried eggs on toast, New York strips, fresh fish, oyster po boys, grilled chicken and olive oil, having dinner at a nice restaurant with dear friends, River Hills, great schools, golf, the beach, skiing, flying, New Orleans, swimming pools, newspapers, magazines, computers, the Internet and smart phones.

Being naturally selfish, there is one blessing we often overlook. We should be thankful not only for things God has given us, but also for the things he has taken away.