I sometimes fear that Thanksgiving may suffer the same fate as other special days in our calendar—just another much-welcomed holiday, but with little connection to its original meaning. Christmas has mostly replaced Jesus with kindly old Santa, Easter features a cute bunny, not an empty tomb, Victoria Day celebrants shoot off fireworks with never a thought about who Victoria was. Thanksgiving will see many of us consuming turkey without taking time to reflect on being thankful. The following may help.
WHY BE THANKFUL? Whether we were born in Canada or migrated here, we are certainly winners, envied by those whose “lottery number” saw them being born in Haiti, Libya, Venezuela or now in Afghanistan. While Canada remains an imperfect society, here is some good news. In 2019, Narcity compiled a top-ten list of the world’s best countries in which to live. On different scales measuring happiness, wellness and quality of life for women, Canada consistently placed among those higher ranked-nations. Wikipedia places us among the richest countries in the world per GDP.
But who needs statistics to appreciate what we have? In our share of Western Ontario, one only has to look around at nature’s beauty, found in the quiet serenity of the Bruce Trail, the pastoral slopes of the Escarpment, the sculpted Blue Mountains or the thundering waves and painted sunsets of Lake Huron. It is evident in nature’s bountiful Autumn harvest currently on full display in grocery stores, little farm roadside stands or at our local market gardens. A friend lovingly tends her garden which is a multi-hued rainbow of flowers and fragrances. Her sanctuary is a place of refuge and renewal. She gratefully shares the space with human visitors as well as honey bees, chatty wrens, floating monarchs and hovering hummingbirds. She remains thankful, even while weeding.
On a micro level, we can remember to be thankful for those nurturing relationships with our human and animal family members, where we love and are loved. We are grateful for close friends who offer abiding warmth, a place of safety and trust. We can give thanks for the inner joy which comes from falling in love, even when that deeply-felt emotion is not always accepted nor returned. Thanks to the scientists who worked desperately to give us a COVID vaccine, we can now enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together this year. Over this long weekend, what will you take time to be thankful for?
WHOM/WHAT TO THANK? When I was a boy, my Aunt Gladys faithfully sent me the same Christmas gift year after year. Within her card was a folded five-dollar bill. As I now look back on those years, one of my regrets is that I never personally thanked her. One of the first lessons in social etiquette which parents should instil in their children is to say “Thank you,” whether in response to an offered oven-baked chocolate cookie, a surprise new bicycle or a dad’s patient help with homework.
On Thanksgiving, we can list many reasons for gratitude. But then what? Some of us will thank our “lucky stars,” others instinctively turn to God. Perhaps we can thank those who came before us: the indigenous peoples, or our forebears who crossed the perilous Atlantic, sometimes in “coffin ships.” We hold in gratitude our grandparents, part of the Greatest Generation, who stoically weathered The Great Depression and then World War Two.
We can thank those men (and now women) who, over our recorded history, rose above politics to become Canada’s visionary, nation-building statesmen. We can thank our teachers and mentors who guided us. In a moment of self-congratulation, I suppose we could even thank ourselves for having studied long days and nights to gain marketable skills, then working hard to earn enough dollars to buy those necessities of life to sustain us and luxuries simply to enjoy.
HOW TO THANK? Motivated by hearts of gratitude, we can accomplish much good to make our communities, our country and our world an even better place. A common phrase in church circles is to talk about sharing our gifts of time, talent and treasure with those in need. We can also work toward ensuring that each of us is given an equal opportunity to attain those life goals which make us thankful.
An attitude of thanksgiving can be practiced each day, not just annually, even without the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. May you have a Happy Thanksgiving and together with family and/or friends, pause to remember why we celebrate.