We are now fully ensconced in the fall season and all it brings. Halloween with its skeleton, witch and ghost decorations will be replaced with turkeys and pilgrims. Fall leaves with their brilliant colors are here, but will soon start dropping like the temperature. The cooler weather has me cooking soups and heartier fare, which I had abandoned during the hot summer months. And, of course, our country celebrates the wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving.
I have always known it to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month, but until 1942, the date varied. Originating as a harvest festival, Thanksgiving was celebrated off and on starting in 1789. It became a national holiday in 1863 during the American Civil War and was to take place on the last Thursday in November. Most of us express our gratefulness and thankfulness on more than just this one day, but it is a great time to remind our grandchildren that there are a multitude of blessings we should be acknowledging, besides the obvious ones.
We ask for blessings on our food, our family and our country. Growing up, our dinner blessing asked us to “be ever mindful of the needs of others.” My parents were wonderful in their example of this. My sister and I learned early on what even a small gesture of kindness could mean to someone. I am thankful for the many life lessons I was taught. Many of these will be passed on by my children. My grandchildren will grow up with this same sense of being aware of how fortunate they are and the joy they get from helping others. I love the quote, “You will never regret being kind.”
My father-in-law started a tradition with our family one Thanksgiving that we have continued for more than 30 years. While sitting at the dinner table, he handed each of us a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. We were to write down what we were thankful for. After we finished, he handed us an envelope to put it in, had us seal it and put our name on it. We did not read them out loud. The following year, he handed us another piece of paper and envelope, and the one from the previous year. We reread what we had written the year before and could share them if we so chose to. It was interesting to remind ourselves what we were thankful for each year. It was especially enlightening to hear what our children had written and how their answers changed and matured.
Although I am sure I was aware of it from a young age, it often occurs to me that we ASK for blessings. It is there when we recite certain prayers—“Bless this food…,” “Bless our dear ones…,” “Bless all those…,” etc., but we GIVE thanks. It is a concept I want my grandchildren to understand and take to heart. It is fine to ask for help in prayer, but it is also important to be thankful, not only for what we receive, but for what we already have, as well.
This Thanksgiving, while enjoying the parades, the football games, the incredible amounts of food and being with family and friends, we need to express our thankfulness to the One who has bestowed on us our good fortunes and the beauty that surrounds us. Even in troubling times, we can find things to be thankful for.
Spending time with our grandchildren is a wonderful time to express our gratitude for our abundance of blessings. I like to tell mine something I am thankful for and then start a back-and-forth, getting a response from them and giving another example back. This can lead to some interesting discussions and insight.
Whatever this season brings you, may you be blessed and thankful!