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Count your blessings and change the world

As it fell upon the unlikely hero Frodo Baggins to bear the One Ring to Mordor and destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, so I have been assigned to deliver a Thanksgiving message.

I'll start by saying I'm glad "The Return of the King," the last of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is coming to the big screen Dec. 17.

I've needed a reason to return to a movie theater after growing weary of the formulaic pulp Hollywood mass-produces.

There's no denying that fiery crashes, exploding buildings, spurting blood, melting flesh, bathroom humor and people relieving themselves get your attention, but so does a bad case of indigestion.

(Why, I wondered after viewing the umpteenth restroom scene, do film directors think I want to see this?)

Assuming that director Peter Jackson has handled "The Return of the King" with as much care as he did the first two installments of Tolkien's trilogy, we can count on this movie to tell a story.

According to New Line Cinema's official Web site for the movie (, the members of the Fellowship have come to the greatest battle of their lifetimes. With no chance of winning, their fight hinges on distracting the evil power Sauron in order to allow Frodo to complete his quest. The closer Frodo gets to Mount Doom, the more powerful the ring becomes, testing his allegiances and, ultimately, his humanity.

You probably know that Tolkien's revered trilogy is an epic tale of the struggle between good and evil. To quote a film promoter, it "reveals how through courage, commitment and determination even the least of us can change the world."

I prefer that to the vulgar worst of human nature revealed ad nauseam in too many films and television programs of the day.

As long as I'm sermonizing, I'll share one I've delivered to my children recently - inspired by what my dear departed mother used to preach to me.

The richest people aren't necessarily the ones who have the most, mom would say, but are the ones who most appreciate what they have.

I'll admit that I didn't buy it when friends were getting cars of their own and my use of the family station wagon hinged on parental mood swings.

But life has taught me that mom was mostly right. Over the years, I've encountered people who had few earthly goods but exuded joy, and folks with a pile of possessions that were as ornery as atheists at a revival meeting.

Psychologists say that once our basic needs are met, acquiring more stuff, in the long run, doesn't make us any happier. We're better off if we develop an attitude of gratitude for what we've already got.

As a working stiff, I've had plenty of opportunity to practice being thankful for things that don't cost much money.

So here it is, Harriet Clementine Hanson. This Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful for those two granddaughters of yours, whose spunk and disdain of social conventions would make you alternately proud and embarrassed. They appear to be on the road to independent living. I'm very thankful for that.

I'm thankful for the Daily Grind, which brews strong coffee to help me make it through the day.

I'm grateful for my church. It lets me sing in the choir and provides good fellowship and potluck dinners.

St. Croix Valley YMCA gives me a place to burn off steam and pretend I'm young. I like it.

I couldn't be more pleased with the St. Croix River. I've lived near its whiskey-colored water most of my life and grow more attached to its beauty the older I get. It's a privilege to go for an evening walk along its banks.

I'm thankful for Hudson in general. It's a dandy city with well-kept homes, above-average schools, a historic downtown, ample shopping opportunities (i.e., a Fleet Farm), good entertainment and friendly people.

It's the sort of place where Frodo would live if this was Middle Earth.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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