Giving Thanks for Our Blessings

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God …"
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This column is dedicated to the holiday that encourages us to step back and give thanks for all the blessings we have.  America has numerous things to be thankful for.  We are thankful that there has not been another attack on American soil and our hearts goes out to the people in Iraq whose death toll has now passed 150,000.  Despite all that we read about the negative image of America abroad, we’re still the envy of the world with some of the finest collegiate institutions in the world, the best doctors and hospitals and the freedom of speech and choice which is second to none on the planet.  We should be thankful to those families that have endured challenging marriages, but found the will to endure to raise their children in a two parent household.

We celebrated Veterans Day by honoring the veterans that have answered the call to service and who have fought for our freedom; the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps; the groundbreaking ceremony of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial; the economy, which remains strong and continues to grow.  The list goes on.

The Democrats won Republican seats-41 in the House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent.  This is a sign that democracy is alive and working in this country.  Change should bring new opportunities for growth.  As the Democrats take their position as a majority in the House, we should pause a moment to reflect and give thanks for America and the American way of life — a way of life that is bound up in the Bill of Rights, a way of life that treasures basic freedoms like the freedom to better oneself, to determine one’s own fate, to pursue happiness on one’s own terms and, most importantly, the freedom to be left alone.

As we move into the challenges of a new climate of bipartisanship over Iraq, we must not forget the patriots that are presently serving in Iraq and those that have given their lives to strengthen our individual freedoms.  Thanksgiving should be about coming together in a large communal ritual to reinforce the notion that these soldiers volunteered to fight for an idea so powerful that many continue to die for their country.

President Bush recently attended the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.   He said, “The King Memorial will be a fitting tribute, powerful and hopeful and poetic, like the man it honors.”  Dr. Martin Luther King is remembered as a great orator whose impact on the nation came from the persuasiveness and motivating quality of his words. His speeches, sermons and public appearances addressed themes of democracy deeply embedded in the American conscience, and reinvigorated these messages with clear and insightful reflections on the true meaning of justice and equality.  Dr. King stated “The time is always right to do what is right.” This Thanksgiving let’s give thanks for the progress we have made in remembering Dr. King and his vision for a better America.

According to new jobs figures released by the government, 92,000 jobs were created in October.  The unemployment rate decreased to 4.4 percent, the lowest rate since May 2001.  Payrolls have now increased 470,000 over the past 3 months and more than 1.9 million over the past 12 months.  Since August 2003, more than 6.8 million jobs have been created – more jobs than all the other major industrialized countries combined.  Our economy has now added jobs for 38 straight months.

Let’s remember that it was Sarah Josepha Hale’s efforts that eventually led to the holiday we now celebrate as Thanksgiving.  After a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents through her Boston Ladies’ Magazine, Hale’s passion became a reality when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.   As President Lincoln so aptly stated:  the year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.  To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God”.

This Thanksgiving when we sit down to the table with our family, friends and relatives, we need to praise God.  This is what Thanksgiving should be about.  We need to give thanks to the Lord for our accomplishments as a nation.  We need to remember that his love endures forever. (Psalm136:1)  We should find inspiration in His love, and do well in return.  That means letting go of some of our vain and egocentric concerns.  It means placing a little less faith in the acquisition of material goods, and giving thanks for the truly beautiful things in life, like charity, civility, and family.  We need to develop a prayer life in the home and teach our young people about the value of prayers.   For this, we should forever give thanks, not just for one day in November, but every day that is given to us.