Finally -- Election 2018 is over! My last column was on Election Day; a most exciting and important day for all America for many years, but I’m very thankful it is over.

The votes have been cast, the tallies taken, and the winners announced, even though there is still some residual recounting. For sure, I have some Election Day cheers and a few tears. It does seem, however, that the “checks and balances” in our national government may have been restored.

Also, our beloved Kansas chose to elect Laura Kelly as its next governor. She will be a governor of the people, by the people and for all the people. I also cheered the number of women and minorities who were elected to positions in government. That too is a good thing!

Now let’s put away those obnoxious political ads, flyers, and e-mails. I got so many "personal" messages from such famous people as Pres. Obama, Jimmy Carter, Rita Moreno, Willy Nelson, and Cher to name but a few begging for my $3 contribution. Come on! For sure, the political forces of our nation believe in the “dumbing down of America.” I just deleted them all.

But back to the election, like I said last week, my wife and I voted early when the lines were short. For several days we wore our “I Voted” stickers with great joy and thanksgiving. And I say “thanksgiving” on purpose.

So many declare their pride in being American by showing forth that little paper sticker. But for me, I would rather declare that I am "thankful" to be an American.

Pride is a quality of self-satisfaction gained through personal achievement or individual accomplishment. Often it can morph into an unduly high opinion of oneself or one’s institutions. When I review my life as an American, I swiftly realize that I contributed little to its being, to its greatness, or to its hope.

I’m not denigrating myself -- It’s simply that I was born into this great nation through no effort on my own. I was nurtured in its secure boundaries, sustained by its bountiful produce, educated by its wealth of knowledge, and protected by its vast power with only minimal personal contribution. I’ve obeyed the law, paid my taxes, served four years in the military. I’ve been elected to the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I’ve been an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church for more than 40 years. I’ve struggled against racism in the 1960s and homophobia in the 1990s. I have raised a family to be liberal in serving and giving.

But given my best efforts, I have benefited to the degree that far surpasses anything I’ve done that would warrant boasting or pride. I am but a blessed recipient of the abundant goodness and basic decency of America. I am deeply and totally thankful. I am thankful to be American especially on Election Day. And of course on the day after tomorrow: America’s own Thanksgiving Day.

America has honored being thankful since 1789 when President George Washington issued a proclamation calling the young nation to a day of remembrance and thanksgiving for its success in the war of revolution and independence. The president knew that something miraculous and great had occurred and he was thankful to be an American and called his fledgling nation to join him. We’ve been joining him ever since.

 But this Thanksgiving Day seems particularly poignant. As we gather around our overflowing tables ready to feast on the abundance so much a part of Americana, there are several hundred refugees from South and Central America trudging toward our borders hoping to come among us and find the freedom, peace, and plenty that we so often take so for granted. I hope and pray that we are so grateful for all our ongoing blessings that we will welcome these struggling refugees with open arms and loving hearts and generous spirits. We have been so richly blessed for so many years. It would seem that at our festive tables this year the most appropriate prayer might be “Why me, Lord?”

Such honest thankfulness might be the best holiday we have ever celebrated since 1789. As the Lord said, “When I was hungry you fed me; when I was thirsty you gave me drink, when I was a stranger you took me in” (Matthew 25). And “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Might this year be but a wonderful opportunity to minister to Him as we welcome those “least of His brethren” with whom He so intimately shares? I’m so very thankful to be an American. I hope you are too!

Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal priest in McPherson.