Thursday, November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving is really the one truly American holiday. It has been celebrated in one form or fashion or another since the very first Pilgrims came to the New World. They gave thanks to God for the bounteous blessings poured out upon them in this place. They gave thanks to their Maker for having preserved them through tribulation and enabling them to find their way through challenging times.
The holiday has changed a lot since its inception. Sometimes it seems to me Thanksgiving gets glossed over during the stampede to Christmas. Personally, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of Christmas until after the leftovers have been sealed in tupperware and the final gun has sounded in the late afternoon football game.
There are many things for which I will give thanks this year. I have a beautiful wife who has loved me through poverty, wealth, thin-ness, and well, not so thin-ness for well over a decade. I have two great kids. I have a good job and a good house (despite the ongoing drama of Cordeiro Manor).
Life, for lack of a better term, is good.
I am mindful of those of my countrymen and women who find themselves far from home, in diverse parts of the world sometimes forgotten in the minds of most people. They put themselves in harm's way to defend that which America will celebrate today. They do this because their country asks them to. Having grown up an Army brat and thus having celebrated Thanksgiving from Seoul to Stuttgart, I understand a little of what these heroes endure - though I will most likely never be exposed to the full hardship of their existence. They are, to me, family, and always will be. I stand in awe of men like Major K. I owe to him and guys like him a debt that cannot be repaid.
So, as we go about celebrating this American holiday, let us remember, for just a moment, the words of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation gave Thanksgiving a date certain:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.Here endeth the lesson.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.