Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Menzo Case
Menzo Case

Thanksgiving is a favorite American holiday but giving thanks is not uniquely American.  Over the course of human history many thanksgiving proclamations were proffered by national leaders and prominent figures.  President Washington established our National Day of Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.

The cover of the March 6, 1943 Saturday Evening Post - Freedom from Want - by Norman Rockwell.
The cover of the March 6, 1943 Saturday Evening Post – Freedom from Want – by Norman Rockwell.

I understand that President Washington was well versed in the Bible, where it speaks of perilous times at the end of the age.  One of the hallmarks of those times is the lack of thankfulness.  Could it be that he had this in mind when he established the Day?  Perhaps.  Regardless, I’m glad he did. I find that I need to actively engage in thanksgiving – more than on the holiday.

Johnny Cash once sang a song that said, “Death and hell are never full and neither are the eyes of men.”  Unfortunately, I think he hit the nail on the head.  It seems we, as a society, are less content than ever.  Taking time to be thankful helps us to learn contentment.  But, as I said, one day a year isn’t really enough.  After a while the thankful sentiments uttered on Thanksgiving lose their desired effect or are said by rote rather than with an earnest heart.

So, how can we change that?  I think the answer to this question was given in the March 6, 1943 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.  One of the enduring images of Thanksgiving is a painting by Norman Rockwell that graced the cover (Don’t you miss those magazines?).  The painting, Freedom from Want, is of the Thanksgiving dinner table.  When published, an essay by Carlos Bulosan was published as well which spoke about those enduring from socioeconomic hardships. Bulosan was no stranger to the subject as he was a Philippine immigrant working as a migrant laborer at the time. He suggests that Americans be “given equal opportunity to serve themselves and each other according to their needs and abilities.”

There is certainly a need to provide a hand up!  I hope you and your family have the opportunity to come alongside someone that needs some help this year. Make the time to regularly get involved, and, perhaps, we will all be more thankful and content as well.

 

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