A Time to Give Thanks

The American Thanksgiving holiday has a rich and storied history full of lessons reminding us to give thanks for our many blessings. In school, we learn the story of a gathering between the Plymouth Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621, where both sides came together and offered their bounty in a sign of friendship. However, the first national celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday was declared by the Continental Congress in 1775 to mark the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War. Eighty-eight years later, President Lincoln declared the day a national holiday in 1863, largely to celebrate the Union forces’ victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

These events tell a slightly different story – one of giving thanks to God for his providence during exceedingly difficult times where the fate of the nation was truly at stake. It was an opportunity to unite a divided nation and celebrate the bounty of liberty that our country has afforded its citizens for generations.

This year, I was reminded of this heritage by my eight-year-old son. So often, our children unwittingly serve as instruments of instruction that help to remind us of blessings we may take for granted. Earlier this week, Will drew up a list of things he was thankful for as a homework project for his second-grade class. My wife Stacy and I expected to see items such as the Disney Channel or Pop Warner football top the list, but we were wrong. Number one on Will’s list? Freedom. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my two wonderful children – Will and Delaney – and the way they serve to humble and ground me as a parent and a public servant.

2 Corinthians 9:11 says: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” As a nation, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday. We are truly and richly blessed. As Americans, there are many issues and debates that divide us. However, let’s remember the tradition of Thanksgiving in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln this year, who used the holiday as a way to unite a divided nation and drive us toward a common cause. Let’s be thankful for the things that unite us. Stacy and I wish you and your family a happy and memory-filled Thanksgiving this year – may we not forget our heritage and the true reason for this celebration.

A Time to Give Thanks

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