Oh, I’m sure I will overeat on Thanksgiving this year, like I always do. And Karen will give me a sideways glance when I opt for that second helping of mashed potatoes because, well, I will plead beforehand for her to keep me honest.
Come on…who doesn’t love overindulging on this holiday? Yeah, there are lots of folks who will go hungry that day, and I’m truly sorry for that, but I don’t need more guilt, right? So, I’ll just write a bigger check to some charity in December. On Thanksgiving Day, I’ll eat.
For a few years, I tried to get family members at the dinner table to proclaim something they were especially thankful for. That went over like a screen door on a submarine. (In the interest of transparency, that metaphor is my one flirtation with Chat GBT). Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m putting the finishing touches on my next novel about a Royal Navy guy during WW2 who escapes from a sunken submarine.
Anyway, I digress.
As a lover of American history, I thought I’d revisit the origins of this holiday because I still believe there’s more to be appreciated here than all the fixins. The exercise has given me a fresh perspective on why I believe this year we need to give thanks more than ever before.
It all started on October 3, way back in 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation designating “…for the people of the United States a day of public thanks-giving” to be held on Thursday, the 26th day of November. Then, on the same day in 1863, in the midst of a horrific Civil War that threatened the very existence of our nation, President Abraham Lincoln issued Presidential Proclamation 106.
In part, here’s what it says:
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, 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 in the lamentable civil strife 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.”
Mr. President, your words strike a chord here on Nov. 1, 2023, in the midst of our own lamentable civil strife. A war of ideas that is also tearing apart the very fabric of our families. Perhaps, as our wise President suggested, we need to “…implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation…”
From where I’m sitting, there’s enough national perverseness and disobedience on all sides to make me shudder about the path this amazing country is on. I pray we’ll continue to earn the blessings she’s been rendering since our presidents issued those proclamations. If not, someday they will dry up and blow away in the wind.
This year I’m giving thanks for all my blessings, but also all my trials, chief of which is our daughter lost in the darkness of addiction. For Karen and me, the suffering of uncertainty invites the “…the interposition of the Almighty Hand…” and the hope that her story isn’t over. This makes us stronger every morning, more open to share our blessings with others.
Let’s give thanks that the story of America isn’t over yet either.
“I see America, not in the setting sun of a black night of despair ahead of us, I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun fresh from the burning, creative hand of God. I see great days ahead, great days possible to men and women of will and vision.” -Carl Sandburg