Before we get to the real meaning of the holiday, let’s start with the food.
I am a terrible and clueless cook. Spatula, ladle, stove — all Greek to me. A few weeks ago, I ran into chef Anne Burrell, who hosts a show called “The Worst Cooks in America” on the Food Network. I told her that I was going to audition. She laughed. I wasn’t kidding.
On Thanksgiving, I love that someone else will cook an unbelievably delicious and catastrophically caloric meal for me and that I can devour it in multiple sittings.
I love that on this one particular day, almost everyone in the country is doing the exact same thing at roughly the same time: cooking, preparing, sitting down to a communal table, praying together, eating together, watching football or movies together. I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have these blessings. There is a lot of loneliness, despair, pain and violence in the country and the world, and I hope you’ll keep those suffering in the prayers you say today.
I love that Thanksgiving is part of a long weekend for most folks, jammed with leftovers, family, friends, parades, long walks in the brisk air, long naps under cozy blankets, and the start of the manic but charming holiday season.
I love that it’s uniquely American. Given the exceptional origin of this exceptional nation, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that binds us all together as Americans. It reflects our birthright, our legacy, our home. Thanksgiving is us. And only us.
Most of all, I love that it’s rooted in gratitude. As Americans, today we count our many blessings. We give thanks for our families and friends, our faith, our Constitution and the many freedoms it guarantees, our great and good country, and the extraordinary United States military, our bulwark against tyranny, oppression and terrorism.
We are going through tough times, but we are truly blessed in this great land. There is still no other nation like it on earth. Never has been, never will be. God blessed America from the beginning. And He blesses us still. Now we just have to work a bit harder to save her. But today, we celebrate and give thanks.
In the spirit of the holiday, here are some particularly apt quotes about gratitude from some of our most dynamic presidents:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.” (Abraham Lincoln)
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John F. Kennedy)
“Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.” (Ronald Reagan)
And a few choice thoughts on gratitude from some great thinkers:
“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” (Dalai Lama)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” (Cicero)
“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” (William Blake)
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” (Aesop)
“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” (Seneca)
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” (William Faulkner)
“Our rural ancestors, with little blest,
Patient of labour when the end was rest,
Indulged the day that housed their annual grain,
With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain.” (Alexander Pope)
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” (H.U. Westermayer)
Indeed they did. We do the same thing today, albeit with far greater material comforts than our forebears. We have much for which to be grateful today.
Eat, drink, be merry, and overflow with thanks for all that we have and all that we are.
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