Thanksgiving. The gentle holiday. For many people I know, Thanksgiving Day ranks as one of the favorite, of not the favorite, of holidays. I concur.
This is a gentle holiday. It is as if we all pause, momentarily, before that frenzied season of Christmas is ushered in. It is a day of quiet peace and warmth. It seems to be truly one of the last holidays that is mostly reserved for families for most of us tend to spend the day in the warmth and friendship of family.
There is, of course, the great meal that too many of us tend to enjoy too much! There are the reacquaintances of relatives we haven't seen since last year at this time. There is a crackling fire in the hearth. The aroma of the meal lingers throughout our homes as a subtle and gentle reminder of the meaning of the family meal that for far too many of us is but a distant memory. There are the conversations of the state of the nation around the dinner table and passionate debates about what must and should be done about the state of the economy.
Then, of course, there are the roars of laughter as long-forgotten family stories surface of Thanksgivings past. "Remember when. . " becomes the opening line of each person as they recall some of the more humorous family times. Loved ones no longer with us are remembered in bittersweet stories tinged with a sense of happiness and sorrow even if their passing was many, many years ago. In this way they are with us even today.
In 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln announced the very first observance of a day of thanks, the nation was plunged deeply in the American Civil War. Things had not gone well for the North, but the tide had been turned during the summer with victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Still, public morale was low. Lincoln, a savvy observer of human nature, understood that the human spirit needed, from time to time, to uniformly give thanks for what they had. He knew that giving thanks not only entailed looking back and being grateful for what we have been given but it also led to looking forward with hope to an uncertain future.
No truer statement could be made for our times. The last several years have been rough times for the nation as well as individual families. Fortunes have been lost. Jobs have disappeared. Many families who were intact only a few months ago now find themselves torn apart by the turbulent times. We need to now pause, take stock in what we do have of real value, and look forward to the future with whatever renewed hope we can muster.
Priorities for many have changed. Material goods and possessions have disappeared with the fortunes of a crashing stock market. When we find ourselves in this position, we need to look around in an attempt to reprioritize our lives. What is important to us? One word comes to mind almost immediately: family.
Robert Frost once observed, "Family is where they have to take you in." Maybe, but family is so much more than that. Family is where our hopes, fears, disappointments, yearnings, and love reside with a sense of comfort and safety. This is sadly not true of all families, though. Many are torn apart by the forces of society, left with the scars of abandonment, disappointment, and failed dreams. Those of us who have experienced these things and emerged stronger for them have yet another thing to be thankful for. We need to embrace them and encourage them to move forward through life with integrity, courage, and a bright spirit that will lead to better days.
What am I most thankful for? My family, quite obviously. I have a loving wife with whom I share my life, my joys, my sorrows, my hopes, and, most importantly, my love. She is my rock and life's companion. Growing old without her simply seems unthinkable.
My mother, who is now in her 80's, still has her health even though she is not the icon of strength that she once was as I grew into adulthood. She is a model of courage and strength for all of us showing us the power of hope and positive attitude.
My son, Josh and his family have brought me great joy. He and his wife, Melissa, have shown me unconditional love that burns brightly in my heart. Their little ones, Aliyah and Keirah, light my future with the energy so unique to the young. I see in their eyes my past and my future all tied up in bows and ribbons with a can do attitude that gives me great pride and joy.
I am fortunate to have a great job even though the hours leave something to be desired! My home is comfortable and I want for nothing. God has blessed me with the ability to support the two of us and life is grand.
This kind and gentle holiday is a celebration that is much needed placed at the time of year that it is. The year is nearly finished. We are, perhaps, a bit weary of the quick passage of time. It is so easy to lose sight of what we really do have instead of bemoaning what we do not have as we move through the seasons and months of the year. But this one kind and gentle day allows us to take stock of those things that mean the most to us and, thus, becomes God's blessing to us. For in the end, we must first and foremost give thanks to God for his goodness, compassion, and love and how all of that has been made manifest to us in the passing year. It is my wish for you on this Thanksgiving that you, too, may realize those things for which you are most thankful and that they take you into the upcoming year with a renewed spirit and heart to face the inevitable trials that life brings.