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Give Thanks

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Give Thanks

In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November commemorates an event held in 1621, a meal between the Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth and the Wampanoag – a Native American tribe residing in what is now southeastern Massachusetts.  The feast was a celebration of the bountiful harvest and the assistance provided the Pilgrims by their Native American friends.  It was a way for the Pilgrims, who suffered a perilous voyage and untold hardships upon their arrival, to express their gratitude and give thanks to God, family, and friends.  And thus, almost four centuries later, we still celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving.

 

And, although hundreds of millions of people in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, I would venture a guess that a relatively small percentage of those celebrating will consider the meaning of the Day, for gratitude is an emotion in short supply in our narcissistic culture.  How many people are really, truly grateful for the gifts bestowed upon them in life?  How many have ever considered the nature and source of these gifts?

 

In America, we value the self-made man or woman, the individual who has pulled himself or herself up by the bootstraps and succeeded against all odds.  But, is anyone really self-made?  Aside from the fact that all of us come from embryos “made” by the fertilization of egg by sperm, can anyone truly say that he or she is solely responsible for his or her success in life?  Of course not.

 

We are all of us deeply indebted to those who have nurtured and supported us – parents, grandparents, extended family, teachers, friends, and countless others.  Each of us is a composite of genetic makeup and experience that has formed the physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social dimensions of our lives.  The English poet John Donne expressed it best: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

 

And so, as you prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving, give more than passing thought to the debt you owe both those around you and those who have blazed a trail for you.  For, whatever you have accomplished in life – great or small – is due in part to their efforts and initiatives.  And, if you come to understand the debt you owe, give thanks and settle your debt by helping others for whom you will become a source of nurture and support.

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