An invitation to Thanksgiving

During this Thanksgiving month might I invite you to take this challenge? Say “thank you” at least 24 times each day — one specific act of gratitude for every hour of the day spoken to the people with whom your life intersects.

As the last leaves flutter to the ground, and a windy chill becomes the new norm for a while, our journey points us toward Thanksgiving.

The history of our late November holiday holds in it a dual theme of hardship and thanksgiving. It is believed that early settlers gathered in their communities to give thanks even while their future and hopes were held captive to wrenching uncertainties. Some years later, as the country was in its earliest days, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming a day for “sincere and humble thanks.”

Nearly 75 years later, in the turmoil and pain of the nation’s Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln formally established Thanksgiving on the nation’s calendar by calling the nation “to set apart and observe the fourth Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise …” In 1939, while the shadow and hardship of the Great Depression loomed, Thanksgiving was called on by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help heal the country’s woes.

While Thanksgiving was born from and shaped by hardship, it has been the hardship that has brought into thankful focus meaningful relationships and important features of life.

Brother David Steindl-Rast noted, “It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

In the transitions and hardships of life we are invited to be thankful IN all circumstances — not FOR all circumstances. By doing so, our very character is shaped, our view of the world refined, and our purpose revealed.

During this Thanksgiving month might I invite you to take this challenge? Say “thank you” at least 24 times each day — one specific act of gratitude for every hour of the day spoken to the people with whom your life intersects. And, since not many people will welcome a call in the middle of the night or whenever they sleep, you’ll have to share more thank-you’s during each of your waking hours. Choose this commitment as one of your spiritual disciplines for this month. Then, when November gives way to December, look back, and you’ll likely see that many people were helped, encouraged, and changed by your gratitude.

No doubt, one of those special people will be you.

The Rev. Ronald Oliver, Ph.D., BCC, is system vice president, mission and outreach, at Norton Healthcare.


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