It seems like everybody’s at each other’s throats these days, from the very summit of our nation’s government, where Congress members are debating whether to impeach the president, to our own homes, where people fight over who’s the best Avenger or which fad diet gives the best results.
And yet, on this and every Thanksgiving Day, we’re quick to step back and count our blessings. We know they are many.
It’s one of our oldest traditions — the tradition of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving predates our country by more than 150 years. And it was borne out of an appreciation of enjoying bountiful times after a time of hardship. Abraham Lincoln, certainly not the first president to do so, called for a national day of thanksgiving in 1863, during the carnage of our nation’s Civil War, as a reminder that even amid the horrors of war, of brothers killing brothers, we had many reasons to be grateful.
We have gone though many changes, both good and bad, since the Pilgrims’ first feast — revolutionary war, civil war, more than a dozen wars with foreign countries, ethnic and political strive. But we’ve also enjoyed greater prosperity than many other people around the world, we’ve led the way in many of humanity’s greatest achievements and enjoyed worldwide respect and appreciation — even a bit of envy.
In fact, our blessings are a major factor in many of the problems we endure. Some cultures resent the material wealth that Americans enjoy; our current refugee crisis stems largely from the fact that when people feel the need to flee from their homelands, they want to come here rather than other countries.
The reason is no secret: it’s largely because relative to most other countries, we are free — free to build the lives we want, free to teach our children the values we hold dear, free to prosper.
And yes, free to envision a world that’s even better than the one we already enjoy; free to want something even better.
French intellectual Lazare Carnot’s astute observation might have said it best: “In a free country there is much clamor with little suffering; in a despotic state there is little complaint, but much suffering.”
And of course, it’s not surprising that perhaps the greatest tradition is the gathering of family to celebrate the feast; after all, they often are the source of our primary reasons to be grateful: the love and support of family, and even the enrichment that can come when disagreements expose us to information we might not have known before.
So as we gather for the Thanksgiving feast, surely we will feel grateful for the loved ones who have gathered with us, the bountiful table before us and the resources that makes it all possible. let us also remember the freedoms that make it all possible.
May you have a blessed, and free, Thanksgiving.