Thanksgiving, the time of year when we should stop, realize all the blessings we have been given, and appreciate those blessings, can be traced to the Pilgrim celebration of their good harvest in the New World in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. Since the founding of the country, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States, but it was not until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an official Federal holiday in all states. It was officially set in November under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and finally set as the fourth Thursday in November by Congress in 1941. As the years have passed, I am afraid Thanksgiving has become just a holiday between Halloween and Christmas — just a time to watch football, start buying Christmas presents, and put up Christmas decorations. It seems that as we have become more affluent, we have forgotten to take time to be thankful for what we have.
There is a great story about the father of a very wealthy family who wanted to show his son how poor people live so the son would be more appreciative of his life. He took his son to the country to spend a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father wanted to see if the son had learned his lesson, so he asked his son: “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog, and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”
Obviously, the trip backfired for the father, but the son and father learned an invaluable lesson: being thankful for what you have can show you what is truly important in life. One’s attitude can be the most important thing, because it has been said that if we concentrate on the things we have not received in life, we shall never have enough of anything. If we have an entitled attitude, we will never think we get as much as we deserve. Melody Beattie has said it best: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more” — what a great attitude. There is no question that most of us have more than we need, but we just do not have enough to be satisfied.
I hope this Thanksgiving season you will be able to turn off the football games and stay out of the stores long enough to truly consider the blessings that are yours. If you do, you might unexpectedly find that Thanksgiving is more than just a day on which to start preparing for Christmas.