As autumn fades to the onset of winter, we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. The planning and preparation for this day of feasting, family, friends, football, parades and preparations for Advent and Christmas overshadow, at times, remembering the reason we celebrate the day at all. Thanksgiving initially became a recognized national holiday in the USA in 1864, and in 1941 Congress voted that it be recognized on the 4th Thursday of November.
It started as a celebration of that first gathering of 90 native Americans and the 53 pilgrims who settled in America, and has been recognized regularly since the 1600s. Initially, these days were used to recognize a good harvest, to welcome new immigrants, or to lift up a military victory. President Lincoln later formalized it as a time to offer “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” In the 1900s, there was a move to create time for Americans to prepare for Christmas. After some back and forth to settle on a date for Thanksgiving, President Roosevelt and Congress created the holiday as it exists today. Little did our leaders at the time know that it would transform from a prayer filled day of thanks to the commercial and consumer driven time period (a full month now!) it has become today.
So, let’s take a little time to pray, be quiet, and be at peace with our loved ones this year; to reflect on the original meaning of this holiday and celebrate Thanksgiving as it was meant to be. Let’s even take it a step further and do some real Thanks and Giving.
Personally, I am thankful for:
- My partner Bob, my family and friends for their unconditional love and support;
- My health, great health insurance and healing;
- God and my Church family.
Professionally, I am thankful for:
- The CHHSM staff who are constant companions in mission and vision;
- The CHHSM Board for their unwavering dedication to our core values;
- Our member ministries and all their generosity of service;
- The chance to live into my vocational call every day.
I need to take the second half to heart and be more giving. Yes, I donate to charities and my church, but I may be a little short on other ways of giving. It is a little early for New Year resolutions but I will really focus on:
- Giving my friends, family, strangers, and foes alike a break when we disagree or things don’t go right;
- Giving everyone recognition and credit for a job well done and giving it their best;
- Giving people a second, maybe a third or fourth chance, when I feel I have been wronged;
- Giving an ear to what others say so that I truly listen and become a better learner.
So, what are you thankful for? What are you willing to give? Let’s try this — sit quietly. Think about it. Then share your reflections and your “thanks” and your “giving” in response to my column. Think about this in terms of the UCC’s Three Great loves initiative — love of neighbor, love of children, love of creation. I would love to hear from you. No, check that, I need to hear from you. I need to hear what you are grateful for and what you are doing to create gratitude in others. After all, I have not had a single comment posted in months! Maybe I should give Thanks for that? Or maybe I should be Giving a greater effort to make this a better column that inspires more responses?
Happy Thanks + Giving!