When we pause to give thanks at the dinner table, our thoughts usually turn first to the food we are about to enjoy, followed by perhaps a short list of other blessings.
The traditional Thanksgiving holiday had it right. (Before it became known simply as turkey day, a football fest on TV, or, worst of all, the gateway to ‘Black Friday).
Thanksgiving should be first and foremost what the name implies. Giving thanks. Acknowledging our blessings. Doing so around a festive, abundantly filled dinner table, surrounded by family -- from great grandparents to babies -- is one of the finest traditions in American culture. Everything good about humanity is warmly and generously celebrated on this unique American holiday.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the same status in American society today as it did some decades ago. Retailers and sports networks, along with entertainers and activists have all done their part to chip away at the foundations of Thanksgiving for the sake of promoting ever-more indulgences. Money in their pockets; never mind about being thankful. Especially being thankful to God, from whom all blessings flow.
The more comfortable we get with our lives, the less mindful we tend to become with our thoughts and actions as to where it really all comes from. In other words, we begin to take things for granted.
One of the things that I, personally, am most grateful for is being part of a community that has not forgotten the true reasons for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. On a broader note, I’m deeply grateful for living in a Christian country. We nourish each other spiritually; encourage and support each other whenever a need is shown and recognize that there is indeed a Higher Power in the universe. The vast majority of our population can be defined as being kind, compassionate, generous and willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs it.
Those qualities are certainly not limited to either Americans or Christians. Certainly not. However, America didn’t get to be where it is, or earn the reputation that it has, by being unfriendly, uncaring and selfish. Americans are No. 1 on the warm welcome scale. That’s why millions of people chose to come here in the first place. Religious freedom and economic opportunities provided the primary incentives for their transcontinental journeys. Let us not forget that. No other country ever had so much to offer. These are profound reasons for Thanksgiving. Real thanks giving.
But no country has it all figured out perfectly. We have our share of problems too. Social problems are the most worrisome, beginning with the political mindset that we are entitled to do as we please, regardless of costs … and all the while with diminishing personal responsibilities, including even working for a living. That's dangerous stuff as any immigrant from less fortunate parts of the world can tell you.
Watching, listening, or reading about what's going on in much of the rest of the world should give us all reason to pause and give thanks. Even if we have little; we are comparatively very fortunate.
While we're told that one in seven Americans supposedly suffers from hunger, an abundance of foods is all around us. Not so in parts of Asia, Africa and South America. Hunger is very real there, complete with alarming and disturbing rates of starvation.
Death also claims millions around the world due to totally inadequate health care or even no care at all. If we enjoy good health, it's something to be profoundly thankful for. And if we need care, we can be thankful to have it close by, as most all of us do.
Oppression of basic human rights is rampant around the world. Evil people are ruthlessly exercising their power, and again, the lives lost runs into the millions. Millions more live with non-stop fear and stopped-dead hope.
How thankful are we for not having to suffer the consequences of widespread religious and/or political extremism? How thankful are we for having our freedoms and opportunities? Freedom and liberty should be held sacred. None of the rights that were given to us by God via our Founding Fathers should ever be taken for granted. Yet they are. Increasingly so, I'm afraid.
Thanksgiving is a holiday rooted in profound gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us by God. It's about food, yes, of course. But beyond all the material things we have at our disposal, let's please not forget the gifts in the bigger picture of life such as good neighbors and friends, gifted teachers and leaders, clean and caring communities, loyal customers and so much more. Be thankful that fairness, honesty and integrity are still very much alive in America, especially in rural America. Be thankful for the opportunities to get an education, pursue your own passion and provide for your family. And, for sure, be thankful for family.
Generations of family, including even those who are no longer with us and those we have not yet welcomed into the world. When we consider all of that, it's something to be very, very thankful for.
Our own minds, hearts and hands play a role in what we attempt to provide for our loved ones, communities included. That’s for sure. But have you noticed that when God is taken out of the picture or out of the "equation" things don't work quite so well.
Remember to thank God.