Could we be more Thankful?
Thanksgiving is the greatest of American holidays. Its initial observance is older than the nation itself. The Pilgrims, of course, viewed it more as a time of prayer and reflection, than today’s feasting and football frenzy. But let’s just admit it, with the Egg Bowl approaching most of us are thankful for the NCAA Playoff Selection Committee’s SEC bias and are hopeful a team from Mississippi ends up competing for the National Championship.
Abraham Lincoln actually proclaimed a National Holiday of Thanksgiving back in 1863. Our annual celebration goes beyond football and a federally-recognized day to be nebulously thankful for all the stuff we’ve ended up with. As it was for those early Pilgrims, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to collectively show our gratitude to our Creator for our shared experience. In this way, Thanksgiving is more spiritually-centered than America’s mega-marketed Christmas, with or without the “Christ.”
Thanksgiving allows us to reflect on the experiences that have brought us to this point and be mindful of who we are, what we believe and where we hope to go together.
For many of us gratitude is ingrained. I was raised by firm and loving parents. Our family was active in a church community. I was subjected, not too harshly I might add, to Christian teaching. I am grateful for that church upbringing and it’s why my family and I still attend church.
Those vitally important pieces of my young life helped shaped an empathy for those suffering and in need. It helped me to reflect, pray, and to count my blessings.
Having a grateful heart has created my more hopeful view of the world. It takes work and sometimes it means looking beyond the problems and singing a happy tune, even if you are composing the music on the fly. I make up a lot of silly songs. It keeps me happy and upbeat. My wife refers to it as my “La-la-la-la-Life.”
Things often seem more difficult and more problematic than they are. Taking the time to be grateful can help put them in perspective.
Contrary to what you see on television, the United States is not quite as broken as it was in the fall of 1863. Still, it is worth considering some of Abraham Lincoln’s reasons for setting aside our national day of Thanksgiving. With citizens dying and the Civil War raging, Lincoln hoped for “the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
That must have seemed ridiculously optimistic for Lincoln’s time, but the old country lawyer born in a log cabin understood the value of a grateful heart and he wanted to remind his broken nation.
Now, some people do not seem to mind going through life broken, mad, and downright indignant. They seem to relish in it. That’s why they don’t vote or don’t vote Democrat or don’t vote Republican. It’s why they refuse to attend church with all of those hypocrites. It’s why they are right and everybody else is forever wrong. It’s why they view the world as a whole lot of hooey.
Have you ever noticed how pessimism and ingratitude seem to walk hand-in-hand.
Being thankful and finding ways to demonstrate and exercise your gratitude will improve your life.
Take the time to be thankful not just this week, but every day. It will magnify your experience of the good things in life and will allow you to enjoy them more fully. Being thankful helps us all to endure the hard things in life with dignity, perhaps even with a little humor.
Life, like a good Thanksgiving Dinner, is a great big feast. There are lots of fine sweet and savory flavors with perhaps too many Brussels sprouts and other stuff that doesn’t taste so great thrown in, but no one should try to rush it. Enjoy every bite and be truly grateful for the meal.
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.