It may seem like one has to dig deep to find things for which to be thankful this year. The economic downturn has taken a toll here – almost unprecedented unemployment figures, several hundred foreclosures, and escalating vacancies in commercial areas. The City is facing an $8 million shortfall in the upcoming budget. The school districts are also in a bind, because their property tax levies this year are limited by last year’s low consumer price index.

Like those pilgrims, we have made it through a grueling year to harvest time. And even though there could be another cold year ahead, Evanston has come through these very tough times without losing its essential character. We are still an active, caring and concerned community. Two different citizen groups are working – one more philosophically and the other more nuts-and-bolts – to help bring City expenditures in line with its revenues. At the schools, teachers still pour their hearts into teaching, and PTA work to provide extra-curricular fun and enrichment to all students. The many churches and not-for-profits here remain strong in their missions, even if coffers are thinner this year.

In the jobs that remain, many of us may feel we are working harder than ever for less – and that is very likely true – but we are grateful for the jobs, the schools and the community. Last night the holiday tree was lighted, to usher in the season of joy. This year there may be a little less focus on material goods and more emphasis on the intangibles, as folks will have or make the time to consider the things that really last – love and support of family, friends and community.

But since folks will be shopping, even if on a downsized budget, as always, we encourage shoppers to patronize Evanston stores first