It must be the result of an official safety study, conducted by at least three highly trained traffic engineers, culminating in the adoption of a policy on interstate snow removal.

Said policy, because it reflects "best practices" as well as a full spectrum of litigation-avoidance measures, now must demand that the highway be cleared of snow while simultaneously being treated with an anti-icing agent — salt or sand, or more likely, some chemically perfect combination of the two.

I have no doubt this policy is dutifully followed after having been reviewed by the head of the road commission only weeks ago, when it was presented with all due authority at a meeting of professional snow-removal technicians.

This is the only explanation I can imagine for the illogical traffic jam in which I have, for the past 27 miles, crawled down the interstate while ahead of me three snowplows ride abreast across the entire expanse of expressway, slowing the midday flow of cars to a maddening 15 miles per hour.

Fortunately, I'm not under any particular time pressure as I'm on my way to pick up my college sophomore for Thanksgiving. Heaven knows she won't be ready to leave, no matter what time I get there, so I relax and stretch my right ankle, now cramping from riding the break as I inch along.

It could be worse, I think. I could be running late and feeling stressed.

That's my tactic at times like these. I consider myself lucky because I'm not someone else —someone trying to get to a crucial job interview or a doctor's appointment or a first date.

I've done that a lot in the past several years — been thankful I wasn't in New York on Sept. 11 or in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, for example. I've felt grateful it's not my family that waits to hear from a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, blessed that the news of our crumbling economy hasn't meant a job loss for my husband or those close to us.

This is the time to count our blessings, and since we're all struggling in one way or another, we all can appreciate the sense of comfort that comes from knowing we could be worse off than we are.

But suppose we were thankful not just for our blessings, but for our hardships, too?

Suppose we took to heart the biblical admonition: "Be thankful in all things."

Suppose we praise God not only for the circumstances in which we are pleased, but also for those that cause us irritation and anxiety, or even those that cause sadness and suffering?

Being thankful in all things means believing that every situation is an opportunity to find strength or compassion, wisdom and love.

Being thankful in all things means accepting that sometimes it's best not to have all the things we want.

Being thankful in all things means knowing, as I sit quietly in a traffic jam behind three snowplows moving as slow as molasses in winter, that those same trucks may be the difference between a patch of ice that endangers my journey, and the blessing of another healthy, happy Thanksgiving.