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Hey friends and Happy Thanksgiving! Shout out to all of my international visitors. Feel free to consider yourself an American today and celebrate with my fellow country folk. This late November holiday just happens to be my favorite for its clear and unapologetic purpose: giving thanks.
That's right. Despite retail America's sparkly rush to Christmas, Thanksgiving sits unassumingly between Halloween and Yuletide like Grandma in her corner rocking chair. It ditches the hustle for the harvest, the multitasking for a singular focus on the blessings around us.
Thanksgiving is slow. Unlike our usual microwave meal prep, turkey basting and roasting takes hours. Mashed potatoes must be mixed just so. Gravy must be carefully stirred and pumpkin pie watched, hawk-like, to prevent over-baking. Even the football game unfolds like a dream sequence while cousins and grandparents doze under afghans during commercial breaks. In a culture where we have become slaves to our smart phones, Thanksgiving begs for our undivided attention.
And then there's the "giving thanks" part of the holiday. It is the phrase reminding us that, regardless of circumstance, we all have thanks to offer. A loved one absent from our circle spurs gratitude for the lifetime of shared affection. A lost job prompts thanks for new opportunities. A chronic illness sparks appreciation for a reshuffling of priorities.
As I remind my classroom full of gratitude-deficient teenagers, Americans have an abundance for which to be thankful. Shoes. Clean water. Freedom. More than the first Thanksgiving's venison, clams, and squash, even more than its cross-cultural fellowship, gratitude is its first lesson. In the early 1600's, disease decimated the east coast's native people. Of North America's approximately 10,000 colonists arriving during this time, only about l,300 were still living in 1624. And still they gave thanks.
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President Lincoln signed our official Thanksgiving observance into law in 1864 in the middle of the bloodiest war fought on U.S. soil, stating:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.
Friends, we Americans could do with a titch more humbling ourselves in the dust to acknowledge God's provision, yes?
This Thanksgiving, as we select white meat or dark, pecan pie or pumpkin. As we plop down on the sofa or the floor for football and a nap. As we take a walk in the woods to fill our senses with earthy leaves crunching under our feet, I pray that your to-do and to-buy list will be as distant as the sun in mid-winter. And that gratitude will fill your mind with an ancient chant shared by humankind long before Lincoln made it official. Give thanks. Give thanks. Give. Thanks.