"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"
Thus spoke the Unitarian minister, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, back in the early 1800's, though his words are just as important today - especially today - as ever.
In these times, these difficult economic times, it may seem like there is less and less for which to be thankful for too many people. And yet, in my experience, it is often those who have the least who seem to be the most grateful. Perhaps it is their knowledge of how fleeting the more material things can be, how once gained, they can be lost in the blink of an eye. One layoff, one accident, one illness can rid us of all we have worked so hard to achieve.
The words of H.U. Westermayer bring the struggles that many of us face into some perspective:
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.
Well, except those who were already living on that land. But I get the point, and trust you do, too. And those Pilgrims were joined in this cerebration, this giving of thanks, by those who were there before them, the original inhabitants. Indeed, almost twice as many Native Americans as Pilgrims. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims during their first year here, an amazing occurrence for these two peoples who must have looked so strange to the other when they met. But help them they did, and despite the massive losses the Pilgrims suffered that first year, they stopped to give thanks, for three days.
The reality of the Pilgrims does not diminish the plight in which too many Americans, and others around the world, are living today. But it does give a bit of perspective into the original Thanksgiving, doesn't it? And says a lot about human nature. Suffice it to say, Americans have suffered, from those who first lived off this land (and who then suffered so much, from diseases they had never experienced before to the loss of their way of life, quarantined by the government on reservations, after tremendous loss of life of numerous tribes), to others who came to seek a better life, to those of us here today. But through it all, we have also made a point of giving thanks, even during the hardest of times.
On this Thanksgiving Day, let us remember those who are alone and lonely, those who are in mourning, those in need, and those who are hungry when many of us will be eating too much. May we remember to be mindful of others, kind in the face of anger, calm in the face of aggression, grateful for what we have, no matter how much or how little, that we are alive, and that we are loved.
I imagine that many you will be traveling to join loved ones for this holiday, this time to give thanks for all the blessings in your lives. The following song by Cheryl Wheeler is for you:
No rush - try to enjoy the drive as another part of the journey, the one taking you to the door of those you love, and the bigger journey that is life.
I leave you with the words of another Unitarian minister, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
Amen and amen.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Travel safely.