A great day in America

This country has been celebrating Thanksgiving for centuries because its people have so much to be grateful for.

Historians quibble about the date of the first Thanksgiving. Was it 1621, 1623 or 1631? Cases can be made for each.

Indisputably, it was in 1789 when America's first president, George Washington, proclaimed Nov. 26 to be a first-ever nationwide Thanksgiving.

Washington declared a day "for public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God."

So whether it's Pilgrims joining together with their native neighbors to gratefully recognize a bountiful harvest or more recent residents of this country gathering for food and football, the idea has always been near the same.

This is a day to recognize the blessings of life and be grateful for them — whatever they may be.

The bounty of life is spread among us in unequal shares, but everyone has something for which to be grateful.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember that truism. Less than two weeks ago, destructive tornadoes spread through many Illinois communities, leaving widespread destruction in their path. Locally, Gifford was particularly hard hit. Near Peoria, a major portion of Washington was leveled.

What do citizens there have to be thankful for on this day? Perhaps a roof over their head, food on the table, the kindness of volunteers, the generosity of strangers, the company of relatives, a future to contemplate.

In the worst of times, the best of people can be a source of comfort to those who are afflicted.

In that spirit, let this Thanksgiving serve as another clarion call to those who have more than they need to share with those who have less.

Thanksgiving marks what is commonly known as the holiday season. Christmas will be here soon.

It's a time for good company and good cheer. But some describe it as an orgy of indulgence marked by commercialized gift giving that can overwhelm the religious spirit of the season.

Why not devote this holiday season to the idea of doing for others?

As winter approaches, numerous organization have been running coat drives aimed at transferring people's unused coats to those who might not have one. Food pantries operate under the stress of too many requests for assistance and not enough resources to meet them. The Salvation Army, Crisis Nursery and many other local social services agencies struggle to assist those in need and, as a result, need assistance themselves.

One good way to give thanks for the blessings of life is to share those blessings with others.

Whether it's volunteering, writing a check, donating used clothing or simply taking the time to cheer up someone in distress, there are many ways to make this community a better place for all people.

Americans are a blessed people. They enjoy material comfort and personal freedom. They are free to practice, or not practice, religion as they please. They can elect the representatives of their choice.

Obviously, times are not as good now as they have been in the past. A long recession and lagging recovery has hurt many people, but it's only a matter of time before circumstances improve.

Compared to the plight of many others around the world, Americans have been, are now and will continue to be many times blessed. On this day, remember that and give thanks.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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