Many Americans are just worn out. Some surely see Thanksgiving this year as more of a break from the steady grind instead of a chance to gather with family and reflect on the many blessings we share. After all, the global COVID-19 pandemic is well into its second year and continues to claim lives, here in the Rio Grande Valley and everywhere else, nearly every day. Political acrimony still lingers more than a year after the presidential election, and the primary season for congressional and state legislative seats already starting to heat up as candidate announcements grow from a trickle to a steady stream. Just as many Americans are returning to full-time work, inflation is slicing into the increased revenue — even as many people are still trying to find ways to reduce debt that grew during pandemic-related work furloughs.
But difficulties such as these are a big part of our great Thanksgiving tradition, and that tradition is worth remembering.
Certainly, days of thanks have been popular throughout history to celebrate agrarian harvests or successful tribal hunts. That’s the genesis of our traditional story of Pilgrims and native Americans sharing a feast to show gratitude to the Creator, and to each other, for the cooperation that produced plenty of food after previous hard times.
Other difficulties, however, have inspired the modern national Thanksgiving Day.
Every year during our Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress called on colonists to reflect on their blessings, even as their future remained in doubt. Shortly after being sworn in as our first president, George Washington issued a proclamation announcing a day of thanks to celebrate the end of the war. Over the years most of his successors followed suit, celebrating it as Evacuation Day.
Abraham Lincoln resumed the focus on a general day of counting our blessings. In 1863, while our nation was still in the throes of the Civil War, the president called for a day of “thanksgiving and prayer.”
He asked that “they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers because in the lamentable civil strive in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”
Our own troubles might weigh heavy upon us today, but they likely pale in comparison to the difficulties Americans bore when our country truly was split asunder. How much more blessed are we with the many conveniences we enjoy in modern times. And while we might feel a certain angst at seeing the animus that dominates daily news reports, surely we all an admit that when we think about it, we have many reasons to give thanks.
May this day remind us of all that’s good in our lives, and may the recognition of our many blessings extend beyond today, and give us strength and hope as we look to the future.
We wish everyone a safe and blessed holiday.