Will we take time out on Thanksgiving Day to make it truly a day of Thanksgiving this year? What do you have to be thankful for?
Let’s start with this: President James Madison in 1815 was the one who created the tradition of setting aside a day for the people of the United States to Give Thanks to the Creator for the goodness of our land. It would be good for us to reflect on what the original intent this day was to be as, with so many things in our country we have forgotten who and what we are.
By the President of the United States of America
The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.
No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. [ . . . ] And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.
It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.
Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-ninth.
Two items come to mind as I approach this Thanksgiving Day. First, how did we get so far from a President encouraging us to go to our churches to pray on Thanksgiving Day to our secular society declaring it anathema for any kind of mention of God in public speech at all.
Then there’s this: How many families turn off the football games for a moment and actually pause at the Thanksgiving table to have family members reflect on what they’re thankful for and to offer thanks for them?
How ‘bout your family? What are your traditions around the Thanksgiving table? Do you pray? (If you don’t have a ritual of sorts, perhaps you can start one. Take a few minutes and ask folks to write one thing they’re thankful for; then mix them up and have others share them before your apple pie and ice cream. (At the bottom of this post I’ve added an article by a guest columnist in the New York Times entitled “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.”)
How many of us are really thoughtful about what we have to be thankful for this year as we approach the day. Especially about where our country is this year. We’ve all been through several years of suffering and worry and–near hell actually–dealing with the Pandemic and its continued variants, Some of us have been very sick. Some of us have watched a loved one die of Covid. Yet still others have been in denial and and have refused to take the vaccine and have protested others taking it.
As I look over the past year, I see suffering across our country and throughout the world. I have a sensitive heart, I’m thinking of all those folks particularly.
We’ve been through major hurricanes, as well as, winter storms, and devastating wild fires in the California. And on top of that, we’re dealing with climate deniers who are making it more difficult for those particularly for us to do what must be done to prepare for the future. As Pope Francis has pointed out, the poor are the ones who are hurt the most by Climate Change. And we’ve seen that dramatically in the sufferings of the poor in these natural disasters.
And my heart aches for so many migrants and refugees throughout the world—some of whom are stateless. Then there’s the senseless and insane issue of gun violence.
Are we at prayer as we approach Thanksgiving Day?
Are we truly thankful for what we have in this country?
+ Freedom of Speech. Some don’t want others to have that these days.
+ Freedom of the Press. + Freedom of Assembly. For the right to protest / the right to organize / the right for unions to meet. And some governors are trying to make it a crime to protest.
+ The possibility of work. But not all have it or enough of it or at a living wage.
+ The possibility of a decent education. But again, not all are able to afford it.
+ The possibility of decent health care. Again, who can get it and who cannot?
Is America the bright beacon of a hill it once was? Do other countries look up to us as they once did? As I think about these questions a day before Thanksgiving 2022, I wonder if I feel as proud to be an American as I used to be. I want to be, but it’s hard. I know I have to do my part as a citizen and I try. I feel rather embarrassed for us at times.
These days seem to me more like ancient Israel when they had lost their way and were unfaithful to God. But we have much for which to be thankful this November after the midterm elections. For example . . . .
We can be grateful to voters, who for the third consecutive election, showed there is a majority — even if a narrow one — that rejects authoritarianism, crude appeals to racism and xenophobia, and downright nutty and mean candidates.
We can be grateful younger voters are developing a habit of voting in midterms.
We can be grateful to the thousands of election officials, workers and volunteers who pulled off another exceptionally efficient and peaceful exercise in democracy.
We can be grateful to the lawyers who litigated in defense of voting access and impartial election administration.
We can be grateful voters are becoming accustomed to early voting and voting by mail.
We can be grateful covid-19 is far less of a threat to people’s lives these days, and that it is no longer a barrier to gathering with friends and family for Thanksgiving.
We can be grateful our sober commander in chief has not escalated tensions with Russia, vastly reducing the chances of a hot war between Russia and NATO.
We can be grateful for heroic Ukrainians who remind us of the price of freedom and the need to resist authoritarianism.
We can be grateful juries continue to convict and judges continue to sentence participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
We can be grateful federal, district and circuit courts have generally upheld the rule of law, preventing election subversion.
We can be grateful for a phalanx of lawyers, former prosecutors and legal scholars have helped provide the public with lively and profoundly helpful education in constitutional law.
We can be grateful to all the candidates who challenged election deniers and MAGA extremists in primaries and general election races, whether they won or lost.
We can be grateful Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is on the Supreme Court and that she has held tutorials on honest originalism.
We can be grateful to the men and women in the armed services and national security agencies, without whom our democracy would not survive.
And we can be grateful that the weary diplomats at COP27 who signed the final documents and will offer some relief to poorer countries suffering the most from Climate Change.
And we can be grateful that President Biden met with Xi Jinping to lower the temperature between China and the United States.