Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

On this day — of all days — remember that gratitude is one of the key ingredients of happiness.

Can another year have passed? Is it really Thanksgiving, a day that signals the beginning of the holiday season in which an orgy of Christmas shopping is scheduled to begin?

For those older people who rue the tremendous speed in which time passes, it's all too true. For those younger people who think a year is an eternity, Christmas Day beckons from far in the future.

But whatever one's perspective, there is one thing for certain about this most familial of holidays: Thanksgiving Day is more than just a time for family and friends, football and food; it's a time for at least a few moments of reflection on gratitude.

Almost everyone has a reason to be thankful for something, and it's important to remember that.

Too often people view the world through the prism of self-interest, envy and frustrated ambition, focusing on the negative rather than the positive. This is a day to set those feelings aside and think of bigger things.

Although widely perceived as a peculiarly American holiday, Thanksgiving preceded the founding of this country by a healthy margin, and it's celebrated in other countries, including Canada.

In the United States, according to historians, "the modern Thanksgiving tradition is traced to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, and also to a well-recorded 1619 event in Virginia."

Modern Thanksgiving was first officially called for in all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, who was at the time fighting the Civil War to keep all the states in the Union.

Military conflict, this time World War II, was again in the background in Dec. 26, 1941, just 19 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a congressional resolution declaring Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday in November.

Even in times of national crisis, when darkness surrounded this nation, the spirit of Thanksgiving found its way to the top of the national priority list.

That's the macro-viewpoint of Thanksgiving. What's more important is the micro-impact for individuals and families in this country. How do they feel about their lives and their country this Thanksgiving?

Americans have much to be pleased about and grateful for.

This country remains the envy of the world, a place where many millions of people abroad wished they lived.

The economy is relatively strong and appears to be getting stronger.

Opportunity awaits those who wish to work their way into relative prosperity.

In other words, the American Dream is alive and well. Just ask those newly minted Americans who participate in naturalization ceremonies held on a regular basis by the local federal court. To be an American is their dream.

It would be nice to say that America is at peace with the world, but, alas, it's not. Military conflict has become an unhappy fact of life in this troubled, terror-filled world.

Perhaps next Thanksgiving or the one after that, peace will prevail. That would be a wonderful reason for expressing gratitude.

But whatever our collective troubles — be they big or small — it's important to remember that they pale in comparison to our collective strengths.

Sure, Americans fuss and fume at each other from time to time in our fractious democracy. But they have so much more that united them than divided them. Americans really are "indivisible" and really do believe in peace and justice for all.

This country is so much more than a place rich in natural and human resources, it's an ideal based on the concepts of individual and religious freedom, majority rule with respect for minority rights, the freedom and dignity that go with each person's effort to make a good life for himself and his family.

So enjoy the day. Give thanks — once again — on this Thanksgiving. There is much for which to be thankful.

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