Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Giving Thanks

This is the time of year when Americans pause to count our blessings and give thanks for our bounty.
I believe we’d be a richer country if we conducted this ritual more frequently than once every November. Even the poorest Americans are better off than most humans living in less-developed parts of the planet.
We often lose sight of that, I fear.

It troubles me, too, that we get all caught up in the notion of “giving thanks” and being “thankful,” without a definite follow through to that idea. What’s seldom publicly stated is to whom or what the expression of gratitude is directed. Like an incomplete equation, we are poorer for not making the completion.
It wasn’t always that way.

According to, “the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast in 1621, which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

“At Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, near the Charles River, a group of British settlers led by Captain John Woodlief in December, 1619, knelt in prayer and pledged "Thanksgiving" to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the Atlantic. This event has been acknowledged by some scholars and writers as the official first Thanksgiving among European settlers on record.”

I have been jousting over the past few months with a listener who is an acknowleged Athiest, and I know this posting is going to send him over the edge. But c’mon, when you give thanks at Thanksgiving, if not to God, to whom is the gratitude rightfully expressed?

I am thankful for our government, warts and all, but I am not grateful to the government.
I am thankful for my house, but I am not ingratiated to the house for the comfort and protection it provides me.

The point is, tangible things and intangible blessings of peace and prosperity arguably come from a Higher Power, and that power does not originate from governments.

Just as many thoughtful Americans are returning to the historically-flawed but more meaningful “Merry Christmas” salutation, instead of the antiseptic and politically-correct “Happy Holidays” version, I think the time has come for us to return to the roots of Thanksgiving, and say it like it is: Thanks be to God for the blessings we enjoy.

Frankly, if you have a problem with that, I pity you for the comparatively shallow meaning that remains of this holiday observation.

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