Most of us know the story of Thanksgiving. We remember the little pilgrim cut-outs we colored in school and the weird turkey hats they made us wear. We know the story of the Mayflower (kinda) and how the pilgrims celebrated making it through the winter with the help of Squanto and the indians. We know the story of Thanksgiving, but what about the story behind Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated as a national holiday until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national day of thanks. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation, he said:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” – A. Lincoln, March 30th, 1863.
And now as Americans, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year by stuffing our faces with food and fighting old ladies at Walmart for TVs. By the definition given by Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving is dead. Or at least it’s close to dead. While we could point fingers at evil corporations or blame societal pressures, it’s not going to bring change to our lives. Instead, we should ask ourselves if we are thankful people.
As a Christian, I’m pretty sure my life’s supposed to be marked by gratitude.
“Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18
While I believe I should be thankful, it isn’t always the easiest. I mean in ALL things give thanks? When I’m sick? When tragedy strikes? When there isn’t enough money to pay bills? When my car breaks down?
What about when Miley Cyrus drops an album? How could I possibly be thankful for that?
There’s this old hebrew term called “hakarat hatov” and it means to “recognize the good” in all things. A story of a famous Rabbi in the 1800’s illustrates this idea.
One day Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was at some posh restaurant and he wanted a cup of coffee. When he saw how much the coffee cost, he couldn’t believe it. He asked the owner why it was so expensive. The owner replied,”It’s correct that for a few cents you could have coffee in your own home. But here in the restaurant, we provide exquisite decor, soft background music, professional waiters, and the finest china to serve your cup of coffee.”
The Rabbi’s face lit up. “Oh, thank you very much! I now understand the blessing of Shehakol — ‘All was created by His word’ — which we recite before drinking water. You see, until now, when I recited this blessing, I had in mind only that I am thanking the Creator for the water He created. Now I understand the blessing much better. ‘All’ includes not merely the water, but also the fresh air we breathe while drinking the water, the beautiful world around us, the music of the birds that entertain us and exalt our spirits, each with its different voice, the charming flowers with their splendid colors and marvelous hues, the fresh breeze — for all this we have to thank God when drinking our water!”
Giving thanks in ALL circumstances doesn’t mean you’re thankful for the bad things. It’s being thankful for the good surrounding you even when you’re standing on hard times.
I think, in order to hakarat hatov, you have to believe one thing: you’re owed nothing. You haven’t earned the right to breath. You can’t. It’s a gift. You have to realize every given moment is just that — a given moment. You can’t be grateful and entitled at the same time. I think this applies in every area of our life.
For example: my wife loves me and I’m so very grateful for her love. But do you know when I find I’m most grateful for her love? When I don’t think I deserve it. When I mess up and make mistakes but she still chooses to love me — I’m so grateful. Can you figure out when I’m least grateful for it? When I feel like I’ve earned her love. When I feel like I deserve it because I treated her well or I bought something for her or my clothes are fly n poppin’ that day. If I feel entitled to being love, I’m not very thankful for it.
Entitlement will eventually kill gratitude. So quit being entitled.
It’s overrated anyways.
soli deo gloria