Thanksgiving has been called the “American holiday.” It was born out of gratitude in times of deep adversity but boundless opportunity.
The hardships of the hardy souls we call Pilgrims were almost unimaginable, yet the boundless thanks they felt for their newfound freedom and the opportunity and options of a new land -- along with their gratitude for having made it across the ocean -- prompted them to set aside a special day of thanksgiving.
H.U. Westermayer used the Pilgrims to remind us that gratitude is a choice we can make no matter what:
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
Today, despite blessings beyond what the Pilgrims could imagine, we are losing the vital, life-sustaining emotion of gratitude. Our tendency to take things for granted is shocking.
Said Cynthia Ozick, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
As the Thanksgiving holiday itself is being obliterated -- squeezed down to nothing by the ghouls of Halloween on one side and the ever-earlier commercial interest of Christmas on the other -- we need to make a personal commitment to gratitude and to help our children do the same.
And both the attitude and the holiday can be for everyone. While Christians originated the holiday, no one group of Christians or non-Christians has eminent domain on Thanksgiving. Ponder the similar sentiments of scriptures of sundry faiths:
“To have gratitude can help us soften and open to feelings of expansiveness and connection.” --Dhammapada (Buddhist)
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise.” --Psalms 95:2
“Any who is (so) grateful does so to the profit of his own soul.” --Quran 31:12
“He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” --Doctrine and Covenants 78:19
“As I, remembering Thee with grateful spirit, a mortal, call with might on thee immortal ...” --Rig Veda (SanskritHindu), Book 5
Thanksgiving bridges differences and puts all humans onto a humble, happy plane where we focus on what we have rather than on what we lack.
(Richard and Linda Eyre are N.Y. Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak throughout the world on marriage and parenting issues. Their two new books are “The Turning” and “The Thankful Heart.” See ValuesParenting.com.)