The Object of Gratitude

Posted on Nov 23, 2015 in Wisconsin Family Connection Transcript


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2015 | Week of November 23 | #1125

I’m reminded of an article I read in Time magazine way back in November of 2001.  This article, and more precisely one particular statement in it, in one fell swoop, shocked me, amused me and saddened me.

The magazine ran a feature article on Thanksgiving.  Author Nancy Gibbs started this lengthy report with a token acknowledgment of the history of this very American holiday.  She wrote, “It (Thanksgiving) was invented by a bunch of Puritans who celebrated freedom by throwing a party, and so bequeathed us a holiday both secular and sacred.”  This statement alone was enough to start me muttering under my breath about ignorant reporting.  But I mustered my courage, subdued my initial ire and continued reading.

Now, I disagreed with a number of ideas, assessments, and twists in the article.  I didn’t agree with how the author equated all faiths.  I didn’t appreciate the picture of the two homosexual men and the implication that their relationship and so-called “family” are morally equivalent to a man and a woman united in marriage.  But it was the last sentence of the article that really got my attention.  And it was that same sentence that made me realize why the author and reporters had thought and written as they had.

The concluding paragraph was trying to tie all the pieces of the article together, and the last sentence referred to being thankful on Thanksgiving, “the day we celebrate gratitude’s birthday.”   That sentence is the one that shocked me, amused me, and saddened me.

I was shocked because I’ve never heard anyone refer to Thanksgiving this way.  I was amused because, frankly, to me the statement was, at least on the surface, inane.  I was saddened, however, because I realized that nowhere in the entire article did Thanksgiving have an object; and this sentence reflected that truth.  Even now, years later reflecting on that article, I am keenly aware that we have probably two generations of Americans that celebrate this holiday without any idea about Whom we should be thanking on Thanksgiving.

Frankly, I don’t think the authors really understood gratitude nor did they have a clue as to when gratitude was born, so to speak.  If gratitude has a birthday, then it’s most likely the day God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul, made in the image of God. As humans, we are able to be thankful only because God allows us to experience that wonderful sense and emotion.

We’re living in a time when our society doesn’t openly acknowledge God other than as a curse word and certainly doesn’t understand Him, and therefore, quite frankly, many people really don’t understand being thankful.  Gratitude by its nature must have an object  By and large, people today don’t know the source of all their bounty, and they certainly don’t recognize God as being the rightful recipient of our thanks, during Thanksgiving or any other time of year, for that matter.

Make no mistake, the Pilgrims in attendance at those first Thanksgivings back in the mid-1600s knew Who should be receiving their thanks.  Governor William Bradford in 1623 made an official proclamation that November 29 of that year would be a day of Thanksgiving.  At the conclusion of an eloquent statement, Bradford instructed all the Pilgrims to gather at the meeting house to listen to the pastor and to render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings on the appointed day.

Thinking about the Time article and rereading Bradford’s early proclamation remind me that we must do a better job of being sure that our children and our citizens in general know the truth about being thankful and celebrating our national day of Thanksgiving.

If we’re going to celebrate “gratitude’s birthday” this week, then we’d better be ready to acknowledge gratitude’s “parent,” Almighty God, and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the One to Whom we offer our heartfelt thanks, individually and nationally.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving and reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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