Submitted: Fall is in full force this month, reminding us that with November comes the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Celebrated at various times and ways by states throughout our nation’s history, it wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. In 1942, President Roosevelt issued a proclamation designating the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
Only six other nations in our world have a national day of thanksgiving for various reasons. Thus, I’m grateful that our nation is set apart in this way, especially as the central theme of our observance is to thank God for blessings, which reveals our Judeo-Christian heritage. To give thanks requires a recipient; and, for those of us who have faith in the God of Creation, then he is the ultimate receiver of all our thanks, for he is the God of blessing and goodness.
It has long been known that showing gratitude is beneficial to our mental and physical health. Gratitude strengthens our relationships, and gratitude builds our faith. I believe that thankfulness and gratitude ultimately remind us that we are loved and not in this world alone. When I count my blessings and thank God, I’m reminded that he keeps his promises of being with me always, watching and guiding me. When I reflect on the good things even in what might have been a hard year, I’m reminded that I serve a God who is loving and active in this world, not distant and uncaring.
When I show my thanks to the people in my life who have helped me, supported me, and worked alongside me this year, I am reminded that I’m not alone in the family of humanity. We are called to be in relationship, not only with our Creator but with our fellow human beings. Thankfulness reminds us that our walk in this life is blessed by others. Even a smile, a greeting, or an act of kindness from a stranger is reason for saying thanks.
For some, Thanksgiving is family, and that is fine. We look forward to those gatherings, full of food, laughter, and conversation. Yet, when we only focus on the occasion and not on the reason, we miss a great chance to purposefully thank God for our family and our family for their love and care. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving alone. It was a new experience for me, and yet gave me time to reflect and pray for the thousands of people who spend this day alone as well. I wasn’t sad but began to see the opportunities we miss in inviting others into our homes who may not have family or friends with whom they can spend the day.
Do you have a grateful heart this year? Are you sharing your thanks with your Creator, family, colleagues, or friends? You’ll be blessed if you do.
Picture: Thanksgiving at our house in the 1960s. Carol (with small guitar) with her siblings and cousins. We were a musical family!