I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning 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 interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
—Abraham Lincoln, 1863
Can we really do Thanksgiving in a year like 2020, a year that has seen 1.35 million deaths world-wide due to COVID-19? It’s a fair question. Can we give thanks just one week after California has had to return to the most restrictive tier of the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy? Can we return thanks in a year in which jobs have been lost, education has been disrupted, and lives have been turned upside-down?
Here is a perspective to bear in mind:
- We shared in Thanksgiving three weeks after the Borderline shootings and the Woolsey fire in 2018.
- We shared in Thanksgiving during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, when our economy lost 8.7 million jobs.
- We shared in Thanksgiving two months after the horrible events of 9/11 changed our world.
- We have shared in Thanksgiving following the death of people we dearly cherished.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, smack dab in the middle of the Civil War (see the quote above). He did not mince words about the painful realities facing the nation. Yet, in the midst of the staggering losses of the Civil War, the call went out to set aside a day to give thanks and praise to God.
So can we share in Thanksgiving this year? In a word, absolutely! We need to practice gratitude more than ever! Thanksgiving helps us pause during a year when it’s patently obvious that life is difficult to remember that life is also beautiful. To affirm one is not to deny the other. In fact, the difficulties of life sharpen the beauties of life. I recently saw a post that said, “Don’t let your ice cream melt while you’re counting someone else’s sprinkles.” One reason that the season of Thanksgiving is so important is because it changes our focal point and draws us into gratitude. Thanksgiving is not an attempt to paper over life’s difficulties but to open our eyes to the simple gifts that lie all around us. I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving!