Giving Thanks

November 24, 1994

The traditional story told this time each year is that New England colonists, grateful for a good harvest and for survival through another hard year, held the first Thanksgiving. The truth is, giving thanks, officially or otherwise, is as old as the survival of adversity.

Ancient kings and potentates long ago ordered their subjects to offer gratitude to whatever gods they served, just as now the president of the United States issues a proclamation each year calling for all Americans to cease their bustling ways on the fourth Thursday of November so they can be with friends or family and give thanks.

If Americans are not unique in feeling thankful, they are particularly fortunate in their reasons for giving thanks. In this country, contentious and hard-fought political campaigns yield to peaceful polling days, and transfers of power are accomplished without force of arms. In many parts of the world, such transformations of the political landscape as this country will witness in the coming weeks would be miraculous indeed.

As we look around the world at countries like Russia trying to jump-start archaic and ossified economies, at countries like Rwanda and Bosnia bleeding from ethnic fears that have poisoned the bonds of community, at countries like Haiti where self-government is still a fragile hope, these lessons in disaster help Americans better understand why it is that Thanksgiving Day is an essential part of our national life.

In this land of plenty, politics may not be polite but at least the process is peaceful. That good fortune allows us the luxury of reflection on other blessings: bulging shelves in supermarkets and stores, and the means for most Americans to purchase the essentials of life and even some of the frills; the long, lingering warmth of an especially lustrous autumn, nature's way of making amends for last winter's endless ice; the prospect of another holiday season without the threat of war or the fear of military conflict.

For each of us, there are also the private meditations on the bonds of home and hearth and the people whose faces fill our picture frames. And, too, the knowledge that regardless of our stations in life, so many of our fellow travelers on this Earth have less than we do, in many cases less than a human being needs to survive.

Thanksgiving is a day when plates are filled to overflowing, and a day when the fullness of the season reminds us once again that no bountiful harvest, whether of food or fortune, should ever be taken for granted.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.