Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Why? First of all because it is a holiday celebrated in most countries and by virtually all faiths. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., all have the tradition of giving thanks. So, wishing someone a “Happy Thanksgiving,” is always politically correct.
I also like Thanksgiving because of the history associated with it—especially in this country. When I walked the halls of James A. Garfield Elementary School in the 1950’s, I often walked past a painting entitled “Pilgrims Going to Church” by George Henry Boughton. It depicted a group of pilgrims, clad in black and brown, walking in the snow through the woods. One man clasps a prayer book. A little girl looking straight at the viewer, seems apprehensive. Several men are toting guns. The painting made the pilgrims very real and very present to us all year long. Tradition says they and their neighboring Indian tribes were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Viewing romanticized paintings of that first Thanksgiving, with pilgrims and Indians mingling peacefully, fed my innate optimism.
I also like Thanksgiving because it is less complex than, let’s say, Christmas. That’s because there are no gifts to worry about, no cards to send. Before Thanksgiving we are not bombarded with ads saying “Only ten more shopping days till Thanksgiving!” No, Thanksgiving centers on family, friends, and a meal. That’s it. And the traditional meal includes delicious favorites such as turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. And after the meal (and the dishes, of course!) we relax. Just relax. We enjoy each other’s company whether we’re sitting and talking, playing a game, going for a walk, watching a movie, or cheering a football game on TV.
I also like the purpose of Thanksgiving. It is a day to pause and give thanks. For what? For all the blessings we have received. And to whom do we give thanks? To God, of course. But it is not enough to give thanks. The writer Brother David Steindl-Rast says we must also do thanks. Thanks-giving must include Thanks-doing. This means we are to do something with the gifts we have been given. If we have good health, for example, we can use that health to help someone who has failing health. If we are good with children, we can offer to babysit for a frazzled parent. If we are blessed with a little extra time, we can visit someone who is homebound or in a nursing home. If we have an abundance of food for Thanksgiving dinner, we can invite someone to our table who otherwise might be alone on this day. If we have a good education, we can help to educate someone else—by listening to a child read, but contributing to our high school or college scholarship fund, or by donating a book to our local library. In short, doing thanks is the best way of giving thanks.
And finally, Thanksgiving Day reminds us not to take things for granted. The Catholic writer, G.K. Chesteron expressed this well when he wrote: “Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands, and the great world around me, and tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?”
Happy Thanksgiving! And Happy Thanksdoing!
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