Thanksgiving, Beyond a Holiday
Nowadays, thanksgiving has become a mere “holiday”, when folks including you and me, take off, get a break, see friends and family, and gather for a turkey dinner. Many of us look forward to the celebration, for various reasons. Nothing wrong with that. According to the NTF, National Turkey Federation, 45 million turkeys are consumed at Thanksgiving and 91 percent of Americans eat a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. That is incredible! No animal has been as glorified and yet treated without mercy.
Thanks for the yum!
I'm grateful for...
"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new". RW Emerson
It has been noted, that grateful people tend to be less materialistic than the population as a whole and to suffer less anxiety about status or the accumulation of possessions. That, partly because of this, they are more likely to describe themselves as happy or satisfied in life.
Author Melodie Beattie hit it on the head when she said
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”.
Centuries ago, the philosopher Cicero argued that among virtues, gratitude is "the parent of all the others". A virtue that begets other virtues. There is a story in the bible which I believe is a lesson in thanksgiving. God had seen the slavery of the Israelites under Pharaoh and so He answered their prayer by bringing them deliverance, by miraculously escaping the pursuit of their enemy, crossing the sea on dry ground. There was provision of food everyday and water to quench their thirst. But they were not satisfied, and all they did was complain. For being such ingrates, they remained wandering in the desert for forty years. Contemporary social scientists have likewise and empirically-tested the theory, concluding that gratitude "stimulates moral behavior" and encourages people to behave in a "pro-social manner." They say gratitude is positively related to such critical outcomes as life satisfaction, vitality, happiness, optimism, hope, empathy, and the willingness to provide emotional and tangible support for other people.
There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving: Below is the first by Edward Winslow's written in a letter dated December 12, 1621. The complete letter was first published in 1622, and is chapter 6 of Mount's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgims of Plymouth, and it is very much like a prayer.
“Our corn, i.e. wheat, did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty”.
The Pilgrims legacy seem to get dimmer and dimmer these days, which is sad because there is more reason to uphold it in this country. Noteworthy is that these Pilgrims were men, women and children who did not only subscribe to a religious faith, but they governed themselves as a political community. The covenant sustained the families as religious separatists in England who were persecuted for their religious beliefs and after fleeing England, sustained them as exiles in Holland for nearly two decades. Their faith in God sustained the families during the frightening voyage of the Mayflower and the first horrific year in Plymouth when half of them died. After landing in Plymouth their covenant was expressed as the Mayflower Compact that established the first fully representational government in America. In addition to their inaugurating the feast of Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims also demonstrated that tolerance and accommodation were sustainable policies for peace. Theirs is a rich history that is worthy of national commemoration.
Grateful for the past
In this very precarious time, with so much uncertainty before us, i think, more than ever, we must go back in time, to learn something valuable from our rich history, of how the Pilgrims with their attitude of gratitude, beat the odds. Despite so much loss and enormous difficulty, they managed to build homes in the wilderness, raise crops to keep themselves alive during the long winter. And somehow, managed to be at peace with their Indian neighbors, which is something we seem to miss within our community. There is so much discontent, clamoring and hate, in fact. What happened?
It must have been so important to them. Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that was to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native American Indians. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation.
Thankfulness is among our most important positive emotions, one that links directly to our physical and mental well-being. It is in our self-interest to feel gratitude because it makes us better people. Surprisingly, this is indicated by research. Recent academic studies have shown: People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others and to God tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole. These results hold even when researchers factor out such things as age, health, and income, equalizing for the fact that the young, the well-to-do, or the hale and hearty might have "more to be grateful for."
In an experiment with college students, those who kept a "gratitude journal," a weekly record of things they should feel grateful for, achieved better physical health. They were more optimistic and exercised more regularly, describing themselves as happier, than a control group of students who kept no journals. Researchers use frequency of exercise as a barometer for general well-being because it is an objective measure that links to subjective qualities; people who exercise three or more times per week tend to have better indicators of well-being, even when health conditions that affect the ability to exercise are factored out. Grateful people are more spiritually aware and more likely to appreciate the interconnectedness of all life.
Here are a few suggestions how to make this thanksgiving more meaningful:
- Make a list of all your blessings, and say thank you to God and to others for them. Try some of the following ideas or add your own:
- Write thank-you notes in response to gifts you've received, events you've enjoyed, or anything else that deserves thanks.
- Say thank you more often, to other people, old and new friends, for making life sweeter, more vibrant, and interesting
- Say grace before and after meals in thankfulness for the food that sustains your body.
- Give thanks to God, throughout the day for anything that give you joy.
- Be more keen and take a daily inventory of the blessings you receive, no matter how small.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!