Take time to give thanks
Of all the civic and cultural holidays celebrated throughout the year, Thanksgiving is the most reflective. It is the one that calls on each of us, collectively and as individuals, to pause and ask ourselves, “What are you thankful for?”
We all grew up learning the story of the Pilgrim colonists struggling for survival in a new land. We all learned about the members of the local Native American tribes who shared with them planting techniques and helped the colonists through those lean, bleak times. And ultimately we all know the story of how they gathered together to give thanks for the blessing of a bountiful harvest.
Anyone who has ever donned a construction paper Pilgrim hat or taken part in a kindergarten Thanksgiving feast, knows the story and the lessons behind it.
As adults, intellectually, we know there are many aspects of the story that gloss over the actual events as they occurred. History is often far messier than the stories we tell our children.
This in no way diminishes the message of the importance of gathering together with friends, neighbors and loved ones to give thanks for what we have. Taking stock in the blessings, both big and small, that each of us have is important to do on a regular basis.
It gives us perspective as we enter the darkest days of the year. It reminds us that no matter what others may have or how little we think we have in comparison, we all have reasons to give thanks.
There are many whose Thanksgiving tradition evokes a Norman Rockwell painting with extravagant dinners with elaborate dishes and the excuse to use the fancy plates and silverware brought out and polished for just that occasion.
There are many others who give their thanks on paper plates served by volunteers at folding tables in a church gym.
Others, especially in rural Wisconsin, may share their Thanksgiving at the hunting shack swapping stories of trophies harvested or narrowly missed and reminiscing about friends no longer with them.
There are many who are thankful for their material accomplishments, a new car, home, boat or UTV may be among the things on their lists. Others will express thanks for the birth of a child, continued progress in the battle with cancer, or for the strength of their relationships. There will be others who give thanks for having made it through another day without resorting to self-harm or who celebrate each day of sobriety as a milestone.
These are all worthy things to be thankful for both as individuals and communities.
Thanksgiving is a day for pausing in our busy lives to stop and be thankful for all that we have.
In today’s world, it is easy to be cynical. It is easy to be jaded and view things with a skeptic’s eye. It is easy to mock sincerity and find fault in the foundational stories of who we are and what we believe as a people.
It is harder to seriously and without pretense or self aggrandizement answer the question “What are you thankful for?”
Thanksgiving is the most reflective and optimistic of holidays. It challenges each of us to think, remember and give thanks for those blessings no matter their size. In doing so, it serves as a reminder that in the big picture things are never as bleak as they may first appear.