One hundred and fifty years ago, while the Civil War raged and the republic frayed at the seams, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving and praise would be held on the last Thursday each November.
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” Lincoln wrote in his proclamation.
“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 cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
That built upon the decree from the Continental Congress and George Washington in 1777 to declare a singular day of thanksgiving. Over the years, there were several such days before Lincoln made it permanent in 1863.
Yet, what have we done to this wonderful holiday? For far too many, it’s not even a speed bump on the way to Black Friday sales. I wish stores would wait until at least midnight to open for these extravaganzas so employees could enjoy the time with family.
Of course, college and pro football teams have turned the Thanksgiving Day game into a tradition, requiring a lot of people to work. And a Wal-Mart near where I live had Christmas decorations all over its parking lot before Halloween. So what can you do?
Well, in the spirit of what Lincoln intended, I offer thanks.
I’m thankful I live in a nation where it’s no one else’s business but God’s how I worship.
I’m thankful we have the freedom to disagree publicly with our leaders.
I’m thankful for cops who put their lives on the line every day. And for teachers who do their best to open young minds. And for first-responders who charge into the flames. And for soldiers who sacrifice Thanksgiving with their families to help keep us safe.
I’m thankful for my wife, Elaine, and our 32 years together. I’m thankful for my two sons, Ben and Patrick. I am proud of them every day.
I’m thankful people still answer the call for public service. I’m also grateful we can vote some of them out.
I am thankful for good friends and hard-working, talented colleagues here at the Trib. I am thankful to be part of a profession that has never seemed like a job to me.
We get in such a hurry these days. We sprint right past the most important things in our lives. What’s the rush?
Time is the one thing we all have. Spend some of it today with family, on a good meal with friends, or just a quiet walk through the woods or the neighborhood. Nothing lasts forever. Better savor things while you can.
Oh, one more thing. Although I occasionally hear from you when you’re the maddest about something I wrote, I am thankful for everyone who reads my column and this newspaper. I am especially thankful for the nice notes. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.