From the monumental, like the loss of a loved one, to the utterly trivial, like struggling to reset our car clocks after falling back an hour, life’s inevitable challenges often drive our daily agendas, dictate our emotions and impact our temperament and treatment of others.
We often harp on the day-to-day difficulties we face, regrets we might harbor, how we believe we have been victimized, what pain we feel, and what confuses, upsets or offends us. Sometimes those emotions can become completely consuming, causing us to lose sight of the many things for which we should be grateful.
Perhaps that’s just human nature. Under the stress and pressure of life’s continual ups and downs, failing to count our blessings as often as we should is an entirely forgivable offense, and one that virtually everyone commits from time to time.
But even so, Pilgrims, especially since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s be completely honest here.
Regardless of our stations in life, personal tragedies we’ve endured, our personal or professional challenges, our bank balances or lack thereof, or any other variation of difficulties we might encounter, the list of items for which to be grateful usually outweighs our challenges by far more than we care to admit.
The essence of Thanksgiving, it could be argued, is the simple acknowledgement and celebration of that reality.
Not to be forgotten are customary Thanksgiving fringe attractions such as family members, friends, food and football. Food and football are always a blessing. Family and friends, depending upon which family and friends attend, and the duration of their visit, might present a blessing or a challenge, or both.
Even during the worst of times …
The Thanksgiving experience is even more inspiring when one considers the circumstances under which we first celebrated the holiday as a national event. That’s because the nation at that time was suffering through what still stands as the darkest, bloodiest, and most precarious period of its 243-year history.
At the height of a horrific civil war that pitted brother against brother and left 620,000 Americans dead, and at a time when President Abraham Lincoln was mired by withering criticism on all fronts, giving thanks as a nation must have been a difficult notion for many Americans to embrace. The mere idea of doing anything as a nation at that time, especially giving thanks, probably struck some Americans as absolutely absurd.
Even Lincoln, armed with skills of persuasion that were arguably unmatched by any other U.S. President to date, must have known that convincing a bitterly divided and war-torn nation to give thanks together might be a hard sell. His timing, in this particular instance, was seemingly less than perfect to say the least.
But as he had uncanny knack for doing, Abe somehow pulled it off. Lincoln issued an 1863 proclamation calling for Americans to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving,” thus establishing the precedent for one of our nation’s most treasured holidays.
The establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the height of the Civil War serves as a permanent reminder that counting our blessings should not be a conditional exercise.
Instead, openly expressing gratitude for our good fortune is a rational, healthy and worthwhile endeavor that never goes out of style, even during the worst of times.
Once again, ol’ Abe knew best, for which we should all be thankful.
Thankful to be an American
As has been the case throughout our nation’s history, many military members serving abroad will not have the opportunity to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. Instead, they will likely eat their Thanksgiving meals on a base where they are currently stationed.
For many in the military community, depending on their leave status or current operations in locations where they are deployed, Thanksgiving is observed in a different manner or location every year.
Traditionally, senior leaders serve dinner to junior personnel on Thanksgiving when possible. Newly enlisted service members might be away from home for the first time, while military spouses and their children celebrate Thanksgiving stateside.
For America’s troops, being deployed to a war zone is no excuse for missing out on Thanksgiving celebrations. Even when stationed in far-off countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s military service members still get their turkey and stuffing.
Just as being in a war zone does not prevent our troops from enjoying a Thanksgiving meal, the reverse is also true. Military members in war zones often file through buffet lines with weapons continually strapped to their shoulders. In addition to spending the holiday far from their families, many troops are also charged with staying battle-ready while consuming their Thanksgiving meals.
Almost 6,000 active-duty service members will also be spending Thanksgiving on the Mexican border this year. While those service members will not see their families over Thanksgiving, and while conditions on the border are far less cozy than the comforts of home, they will have Thanksgiving dinner courtesy of the Defense Logistics Agency.
According to a Newsweek article published Nov. 22, the Defense Logistics Agency will ship 9,738 whole turkeys, 51,234 pounds of roasted turkey, 74,036 pounds of beef, 21,758 pounds of ham, 16,284 pounds of sweet potatoes, 67,860 pounds of shrimp, 81,360 pies, 19,284 pounds of cake and 7,836 gallons of eggnog to service members serving at the border and abroad.
The article also quoted Army Brigadier General Mark Simerly, the commander of troop support for the Defense Logistics Agency: “Many of America’s military men and women are away from home this Thanksgiving, making sacrifices to secure our freedom and to protect our southern border.”
According to Simerly, those serving will receive “the very best Thanksgiving meal our country has to offer.”
When we as Americans take an accounting of our blessings Nov. 28, troops serving abroad and their families should be at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.
The Flume wishes everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.