During this time of the year there is something that consistently happens in the minds, souls and actions of people that celebrate Thanksgiving as a reminder of God’s blessings. Imagine during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas and when you can find yourself in a church service we publicly acknowledge that our existence could not be possible without our creator. As we reflect back over our lives in 07 it is so easy to find tragedy, sorry, unbearable grief and oftentimes no way around life’s seemingly hardships. No matter how much time we spend being thankful and grateful for what we have, we often forget that there are people who feel that every day is one of suffering, pain and despair. Think about the individuals who have been kidnapped and raped, children molested and abandoned, struggling to find some meaning and purpose in their lives. Every day the headlines scream with someone brutally killed and injured for no reason. And if you think your own country is the standard of the ill that continuously to permeate this world just look abroad to the Continent of Africa, Asia and the Middle East and we will pale in comparison to their every day problems.
As we prepare for our annual Thanksgiving ritual, let us remind ourselves of the continued suffrage, hunger, pain, and depressive state that many find themselves in. Is there more that we who are overwhelmingly blessed can do to help the plight of those that are so miserable and filled with emptiness? Is it truly personal responsibility and accountability that causes the tragic predicament of so many in this country and around the world? Obviously family members lose loved ones in tragic accidents, die in auto crashes, fires, and just simply freak accidents, which are sometimes difficult to explain. Despite all the pain that surrounds us, isn’t it still important for us to find the time to celebrate the joy and peace that is overlooked during the course of the year?
Many of us live for this time of year. For the 30 or so days leading up to Thanksgiving, I spend tortured nights dreaming of enormous turkeys, candied yams, macaroni & cheese, and the soft, sweet taste of my mom’s raisin cake. When I’m not dragged into the undertow of these sensual food cravings, I also pause to appreciate the pleasures that the people in my life bring. Like the many friends that remain in my life after 20 years; for instance, the fact that my mother has about 10 smiles and each one still brings comfort to my world. Or the inexpressible joy of seeing my family gathered together for the holidays. Or the belly laugh I get when I watch cranberry sauce drip down my brother Kent’s chin (we kid each other because people think we’re identical twins.) For the opportunity to share this special time with my loved ones, I am grateful.
I am especially grateful for our men and women in uniform around the world who sacrifice their greatest gift of all (their lives) everyday for our freedoms. They make possible the incredible lives that many of us experience in this country everyday. My heart sinks every time I read about a soldier losing their life overseas and here at home.
I’ve concluded long ago that suffering and dying will always be among us and that death will eventually come to us all. However short our lives are here on this earth, despite the trials and tribulation, we must continue to look for the face of God in all our challenges and triumphs. We can never allow ourselves to get lost in our misery and must find a light that will continue to give us hope. No matter how difficult things may seem, there have been countless examples to show us that we can overcome the worst of circumstances and conditions. Thanksgiving is a time to put aside that which is wrong with our lives and build upon an uplifting foundation to navigate our moral compass. It is the spirit of the American people to overcome any and all obstacles before her that continues to define her greatness.
In this country, we often confuse fame with greatness. We refer to actors and politicians as great. The conflict in Iraq, however, provides us with a better perspective. Good soldiers, good people, are returning to the United States in caskets. They made the ultimate sacrifice in order to make the world a safer place. If there is a ray of hope in this tragedy, it resides in the willingness of our soldiers to risk their lives to defend this country. Many of these soldiers knew there was a chance they would die. They went anyway. Regardless of whether or not you support this war, we should always remain thankful that there are people who enlist in the military, people who are willing to die in order to defend us. This is greatness.
Historian Paul Johnson famously dubbed the American experiment as "the greatest of all human adventures," the aim of which was to endow citizens with those basic rights they associate with happiness. Terrorist leaders thought they could rip apart that spirit. Instead, their acts of brutality only illuminate the best that we have to offer. Plainly, Americans still have the courage to be free.
For this we should all be thankful.