I have a memory of the inner city church that my family attended when I was a teenager in Melbourne, Australia. Every year we had a harvest thanksgiving festival. This would be a time to give thanks for having food to eat, enough work, shelter and safety. We would cover the altar area of the church with bounty - fruits, vegetables and cloths and flowers. It made the church look so different, like a bazaar rather than a place of worship. At the end of the celebration, all the things at the front of the church were given to charity. We gave thanks, and then we went home.
It is hard for me to think of giving such thanks now for food grown in countries where the workers are exploited and often work in dangerous conditions, or even thinking of giving thanks for the fact that as a permanent employee I have no control over my compulsory pension being invested in global faceless companies that without conscience are destroying the world. I am so full of complaints; about the world, about the government, about greed and about complacency. I feel furious. I haven't had TV channels for many years because I get too angry and feel too helpless watching the indiscriminate violence we do to each other and being constantly fed values about the importance of being preoccupied with appearance and having more and more things. I want this to change and to change now. I want the mainstream ideas of our society to be about care for the environment, concern that people in all countries are receiving a living wage, people being safe in the places they live, and looking hopefully towards the future. Why has the market precedence over any of these concerns? We created the market, why don't we try harder to control it for the good of people rather than for profits alone? Fairness, I want fairness, in trade, in work conditions, in treatment of all people.
I don't want to sit in my lounge room and watch another historical documentary about how violent and uncaring evil people have been in the past. The exact same things are going on in the world around us right now. Go to the Amnesty International home page and you will find that an estimated 3 million people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the outbreak of war there in 1998 (www.amnesty.org.uk/action/drc/). In countless countries, slavery continues through indentured workers, a number of them children, making many of the clothes and shoes that are available for us to buy in brand name shops (www.unicef.org/protection/index_childlabour.html). Thousands of Chinese miners die in work accidents every year (www.atimes.com/atimes/China/EG26Ad01.html) Like the people who received the charity from the altar of my family's church at harvest thanksgiving time, we do not have to look at these people or know anything about them.
So, I am using this column to ask whether I can give thanks for anything at all in the world? Perhaps I am surprised to find that the answer is more or less 'yes'.
On Sundays now I usually rest up a bit and then take a walk down to the farmer's market on the other side of the lake in the village where I live in Ireland. Organic vegetables grown locally (i.e. not flown hundreds of kilometres on planes or driven hundreds of kilometres in trucks) are available at reasonable prices. I am grateful.
I work at the Irish World Music Centre (www.iwmc.ie) a place, which has a heart and a soul to tell its story with love. I give thanks for this place and my opportunity to work in such inspiring surroundings. We have just celebrated the 10th anniversary of the centre with a conference and a festival, Sionna (www.sionna.com") Almost every night for three weeks, music and dance filled churches, pubs and auditoria around Limerick and the university. On the night that Yasser Arafat died, I was in a concert performed by Sabreen, a music group from Palestine (www.sabreen.org/Sabreen%20Group.htm). I also went to a concert by Yungchen Llamo from Tibet. A Tibetan lama gave Yungchen's name to her when she was a baby, and it translates as 'Goddess of Melody and Song'. After her two brothers died of malnutrition in the labour camp where she was born, she was sent to work in a carpet-weaving factory at the age of five. Her grandmother taught her to sing glorious devotional songs of her country and heritage even though Tibetan singing was banned as part of the actions of the Cultural Revolution (www.yungchenlhamo.com/story.html). She escaped across the Himalayas into India with her five year old son in 1989. People died on that journey and she thought she would die too. Now she is a recording artist and performer living in New York. I admire her so immensely for her courage to live her story authentically and in support of her people.
The music therapy events as part of this festival were a visit by students from Magdeburg University in Germany and a public lecture by Dr Clare O'Callaghan from Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Five of the Magdeburg students play in a klezmer band, Sheyne Medlach, and as part of the Sionna festival they gave a lunchtime concert in the Irish World Music Centre and performed on national radio (www.rte.ie/arts/2004/1116/rattlebag.html).
During Dr Clare O'Callaghan's visit, she taught the music therapy students and gave an afternoon public lecture. Clare leaves one inspired and amazed at the breadth of her work and the support and care that is possible through music therapy in working with children and adults who have life threatening conditions. I was touched by her development of the idea she calls 'transient ward communities' that form around song singing and music listening in the environment she creates with her music in interaction with patients. I guess much of her published work shows her care and concern in providing opportunities for expression for an ill person and their families but somehow the pictures of these people and the recordings of them singing their music brought this into awareness in a different way. Her theoretical sophistication was well received by the wide range of people who came to the talk. I give thanks that music therapy is not just a series of techniques but is grounded theoretically and developing philosophically, especially through the reflective and reflecting intellect Clare shines on her work.
So, I am grateful and know that I am a very lucky and blessed person. Taking charge of good fortune and directing support and help to those whose circumstances need it must be part of my daily life, and I would encourage for yours also.
To conclude, I found this email which I sent to my boss, the director of the Irish World Music Centre, Professor Mícheál ÓSúilleabháin, after the first concert of the Sionna festival.
I am trying to write something to you about the wonderful event of the conference, all the launches and concert for Sionna the other day/night. It is hard because there are so many impressions to try to reform and consider. It is easy to use words like 'amazing' and 'so moving' and 'wonderful' but I think the event goes deeper than those exclamation points. It displayed for me the reasons I want to continue to work in the IWMC (SAMAD eventually). I think we believe in things - not necessarily dogmatically or ideologically - but in a way that creates and reflects community and is envisioned through action. There is so much I do not agree with about universities but I do agree with what happened on Wednesday. Being at the evening concert with so many different groups of people, all the school children, the young lads John had brought in, the Russians who were waiting for their chance to clap along to any of the pieces, the four or five people who called out when the singer in Sabreen was teaching us a line and then asked 'how's your Arabic?' and the people who put their hands up and down when the lead singer of Radio Tarifa was (probably) asking questions of the audience in Spanish. This warmed me about the community of Limerick. The closed whiteness of the picture of Ireland given in the first paper of the day was not reflected in that evening concert.
This is without reference to that hour or so before with Bondeko and then the Keenan sisters performing. The girls at the front of the stage asking you if you could ask them to sing a pop song. Helen telling me that the members of Bondeko met in an asylum seeker hostel in Limerick. The dancing.
Wednesday night filled the world with connections through music. Like Donat said, it was about love.
 This column was written before the events of the earthquake and Tsunami in South East Asia occurred. Such devastation and loss is so sad and overwhelming, especially that it affected so many countries both in the region and internationally. Perhaps one way to give thanks for what we have is by trying to help others who are not so fortunate or have lost everything in events such as war, natural disaster and violent events. Donating money, our time, our thoughts, and writing letters to government to urge them to help as much as possible - all of these activities help to show our gratitude for what we have and orient us to the perspective of what we can do for other people when an individual response seems insignificant in the face of an event on such a scale.
 This church of my family and my memory no longer exists. In exchange for compensation money and a new building, it was demolished to make way for a casino.
 Sionna is the goddess of the River Shannon that flows through the University of Limerick campus
Edwards, Jane (2005). Giving Thanks. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-giving-thanks