— The recession has hit Terry Zimmerman hard. He is out of work, on the verge of being homeless and barely has money for food.
But the 47-year-old Army veteran from Sacramento still has something to be thankful for.
"My health," says the software programmer.
The recession forced Scott Winterton of Austin, Texas, to question everything about his life. In the end, the unemployed software engineer found a deeper connection to his faith and family.
"I realized that my faith was not in my paycheck or in the housing market," he says. "Since the recession, I've also noticed a change in the country and how we've taken a step back from excess."
Just shy of Thanksgiving Day, dozens of msnbc.com readers say they have found unexpected and uplifting turns during the struggling economy's darkest moments and rediscovered what they previously dismissed or took for granted: Family, friends and faith.
Some readers also say the tough times have helped them seize opportunities they might have ignored before. One woman tapped into her dormant desire to write the great American novel. Others have gone back to school, reinvented their family roles or are on the lookout for an unexpected opportunity.
'A struggle at first'
"We had it all and we lost it all," says Lucia Del Barto of Mesa, Ariz., a mom of six who decided to go to college after losing her home and three cars.
"If it weren't for the economy going so bad, I would still be blowing money left and right and not even trying to better myself with an education," Del Barto says. "I am grateful because of the recession. The recession gave me a new opportunity, hope and purpose."
It forced new roles on Scott and Julie Dick of Mechanicsburg, Ohio.
"I'm the major bread winner for the first time," says Julie.
She returned to work as an office manager with the Ohio Department of Education after giving birth to her son, Matthew, and Scott, who lost his engineering job in 2008, stays home with the newborn.
"The switch in gender roles was a struggle at first, but we know it's the right thing to do and I am very proud of my husband and the job he is doing at home," Julie says.
'Going to get better'
John Temple, a retired U.S. postal worker, never dreamed a recession would make it possible for him to move out of an old Greyhound bus and into his first home.
"We could never afford a house," says the 55-year-old from Henderson, Nev. "Every penny we had went to our four children and that didn't leave us much for a home."
But the Temples never stopped saving and sacrificing. Once Nevada's housing prices plunged, they cashed in.
Zimmerman is watching for his big opportunity.
"I know it's going to get better," he says. "I believe in this country and I believe we can make it through this recession and become a better nation."