PANORAMA - Offering thanks

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Alicia Paul is a sophomore at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia. 'I'm most thankful for my family. We lost a couple people this year and I'm just thankful for the people I have in my life who will always be there,” Paul said. 'Just … my family — I love 'em. 'I'm also thankful for financial aid that sure has helped me out this year,” she said, laughing. The biggest difference Paul, who is from Walla Walla originally, noticed in returning to the Valley has been a distinct lack of trees compared to Western Washington. 'There are trees, it's beautiful,” she said. 'When I pulled up here I was like, ‘Where the heck are all the pine trees at?' It just feels weird coming back here.”

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Sunday Dawson, a massage therapist, was thankful for her health and for a trip to Nicaragua she will be making for the holidays. 'I think most of all right now I'm thankful for my health,” Dawson said. 'My dad just had a stroke last week and … that reality sinks in that our health is so fragile. So I'm thankful for my health and my kids and this beautiful weather and this town, and the fact that in a month I'm leaving for Nicaragua. 'We just up and decided that it (Nicaragua) was a great place to go and experience. We ended up loving it and bought some property down there. We made some good friends and we want to be able to spend some time with them. I've been gathering up little gifts and putting them in packages, you know there are people who just don't have anything. It's going to be fun and warm.”

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Ray Plopper was just passing through Walla Walla when we caught up with him. He is from Spokane and has a daughter who attends Whitworth University. 'I am thankful — especially since our daughter is in Beijing on a study tour through the university — really, all the freedoms we have here in the United States, because she's seeing it what it's like not to have any,” Plopper said. 'It does (put it in perspective), in a big way.” Plopper is a pharmaceutical representative and was on his way to La Grande to call on doctors.

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Jared Holowaty is the baseball coach at Whitman College. Originally from Connecticut, Holowaty was thankful for his newfound friends in Walla Walla. 'I'm thankful for my health , my family and my friends,” Holowaty said. 'I live 3,000 miles from where I grew up, so I'm far away from my family. 'Especially, being that far away makes you appreciate your family a lot more,” he said. 'Family holidays are tough when you don't have your family around, but fortunately I met good friends in Walla Walla — they're a part of my extended family. Holowaty took over the coaching reigns at Whitman in 2009 after coaching previously at Maine.

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Ian Cooper had a fun Thanksgiving break to look forward to. The 2010 Whitman grad works for AmericanWinery.com. 'We're just really getting things together recently and work has become awesome,” Cooper said. ”We've made some really good organizational changes and it's just become a lot easier.” Cooper's parents are Washington State University professors, and he will be visiting them for Thanksgiving before visiting friends in Colorado. 'I'm heading home for the beginning of break and then I'm going to go to Boulder and visit my friends from college — I'm actually having Thanksgiving in Boulder,” Cooper said. 'Oh yeah, lots of skiing — I guess I can say I'm thankful for that too. That, and I get to see my good friends from college that I haven't seen in a year.”

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Debbie Conklin was recently hired as the director of client services at the YWCA in Walla Walla. 'I'm thankful for my many blessings: my family, my husband, my new job and my ability to help others in our community,” Conklin said. 'To live in this beautiful town and serve the amazing people of the community. 'I have been laid off three times in three years, and though it's tested my resiliency, it's made me a better employee and a better human, and it has sharpened my skills,” she said.(

With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought it would be interesting to see what people were thankful for. Perhaps there would be some common theme, or perhaps this line of thought would lead to some interesting discussion. It did both.

Family, friends, health - these are common things to be thankful for - but unsurprisingly, a large amount of people were thankful for their jobs, too. Some were fresh out of college with new jobs, and some were just finding jobs after being laid off.

So, for what random people in downtown Walla Walla on a Tuesday are thankful for, read on:

A collective thanks

To our parents, because with out them we wouldn't exist. And without their passion, love and sacrifice, we would not have had the same opportunities and character that we have now.

To our children, because they are the light of our lives and they give us meaning. They are full of boundless energy and optimism and through their growing and learning, we learn our own limits of love, patience and caring. They force us to put other before self, in all things.

To our country, for it has limitless potential and a bounty of natural resources and beauty, and the space and communities to raise our families in peace. We give thanks for our strong, proud country, that believes in equality and hard work, happiness and prosperity.

To those who come to our country, those who are poor, sick and weak. Fleeing persecution or poverty or simply seeking a better life, those hard workers and passionate, creative people have been the backbone of the American dream since our country's founding.

To the wisdom of our founding fathers, that they had the clarity of purpose and goodness of heart to put aside their differences and create the Constitution, the document that has guided our country through 222 years of peace and prosperity and war and poverty.

To the military, those brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, who at this very moment are fighting and dying so we may live free of fear. Without them, their past, current and future sacrifice, we could not, and would not exist as we are today.

To our teachers, the men and women who have everlasting patience for the indiscretions of our youth, and who bear the responsibility for developing our future citizens. Thank you for blessing us with their drive and caring.

To our rationalism, that we have the ability to think for ourselves, to question ourselves, each other, and work to improve the human condition. We are thankful for the creativity and ingenuity of inventors and forward thinkers.

More importantly, to our flaws and our imperfection. It is through mistakes, greed, arrogance and corruption that we fight to shine to ever higher heights.

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