In my house, Thanksgiving is usually the three ‘F’s; family, food, and football, and not necessarily in that order, depending on who you ask. Yet when I think of giving thanks, I think of quieter moments; reflecting on the people, values, and things that make our lives not only possible, but in the modern day United States of America, make us so fortunate.
Even in hard times, we are still the luckiest people on Earth. But God only helps those that help themselves, and Americans are no exception. We have come to our fortune through 400 years of toil and struggle to live virtuous and respectable lives, and to build moral and upright communities. Ever since the English first built settlements in America, we have defined ourselves and our land through our hard work and through our gratitude for the blessings that are bestowed upon us.
In 1621 the pilgrims at Plymouth had made it through their first grueling year in the New World. They had lost many in their company and their resources were scarce. Their success in the New World was by no means guaranteed. They faced starvation, attack from Indians, the hardship of a harsh climate, and no one to come to their rescue if they failed.
Yet in the autumn of 1621 they came together with the Wampanoag Indians and shared a meal. We do not know why these two groups laid aside their occasional animosity for the celebration, but they came together in cooperation to meet a basic human need: to give thanks for the harvest and for God’s favor. National days of thanks and prayer continued throughout the early years of our nation as Americans understood that without gratitude our blessings would cease to exist.
The United States of America holds a unique position in the world. Today we view our “superpower” status and think that we are invincible to an extent. Yet, when we look at the things that make this nation great, we end up back at the simple and humble foundations of our beginning. Sure, free market capitalism, a strong military, and strong Constitution are what make America great, but those things would not exist without the basic belief that we are all divinely inspired individuals who should be allowed the maximum possible liberty to create and build moral societies as we best see fit.
True and honest thanks is about giving and showing gratitude for the things that we have, and the people who have provided for us. It is our way of returning their grace through deep appreciation. This cannot be done without the acknowledgment that we alone are not what make the United States of America the great nation that we have become. Thanksgiving is a holiday in which the secular and religious blend together. We give thanks that God has given us the ability to create to and maintain moral families, communities, and society at large. We give thanks that our nation and our American bounty is the product of hard work and faith that the Lord will provide.
Our nation’s supremacy in this world is very fragile, and it is directly tied to our ability to share our good fortune with others, and give thanks to those who have shared their good fortune with us. Our giving nature is fundamental and rooted in our Christian values of faith, hope, and charity. When we give of ourselves, we show gratitude for the gifts we have been given. Yet, there are stumbling blocks in our path. Many people are turning away from faith, hope, and charity. Many are willingly giving up their God-given freedoms in favor of government programs that will provide for us and remove our responsibility to give and return gratitude to each other.
It is in the absences of giving and thanks that we become enslaved to those who will provide in exchange for our freedom. If we have no needs ourselves, we will not work to mutually benefit others. We become infantile, and our families, communities, and society as a whole will not be able to sustain themselves. The promises made by our enslavers will go unfulfilled, and we will have lost all that we and our ancestors have worked for.
When we give thanks and trust in the values that have brought our nation to prosperity, we will continue to prosper. Yet when we turn away from God and our duty toward each other –when we think our thanks is irrelevant, or that we are entitled to the bounty of America –that is when we suffer, and the United States of America ceases to be the driving force of hope and charity in the world.
**About the Author: Katherine Goldberg is a Texas native who came back to the great state after 18 years away. She knows her history, and loves to talk politics. Her goal is to help others understand their own citizenship and the history of the United States so that we can all better defend this country from the kind of change that is taking us away from our founding principles. She also writes for Sugar Land Magazine. To read more of her writing, visit www.themindfulcitizen.com.