Today is Thanksgiving, the U.S. national holiday celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. It originated in 1621 as a day of thanksgiving when the Pilgrims (survivors of the Mayflower) gave thanks to God for their first harvest in the New World – a term used to describe America as a new continent. The survival of this national holiday in an increasingly secular society is both significant and symbolic. It points towards an intrinsic human need woven into the fibre of our being, to recognise our blessings and give thanks.
Some may argue there is little to be thankful for, in the midst of a cost of living crisis and recession. But giving thanks goes far beyond our financial circumstances. We shouldn’t forget that the Pilgrims and even our ancestors and forefathers faced cataclysmic events to enable us to be here today. Financial hardship was just one impediment amongst a sea of catastrophic tribulations. Yet, they kept God at the centre of their lives, leant on their faith and persevered with fortitude. We can do the same. Many are facing poverty, hardship and despair today, but history teaches us that we will come through it. We always have. And if we follow the lead of our forebears, we’ll pass through it with greater equanimity.
I was recently reminded of the importance of giving thanks for hidden blessings, as I juggled the care of my elderly mother with the pressures of work. Having lost a high-powered job a few years ago, I was engaged in a laborious and frustrating climb back up the career ladder. Not only was it exhausting but it had to be balanced with the daily needs of my beloved mother. This often meant jumping off video conferences to prepare her meals, re-fill hot water bottles and unearth Bollywood films from her childhood, which brought her so much joy. Many a time I’d rush around the house like a mad hatter, keeping every plate spinning, as I oscillated between keeping my mother happy and impressing my boss. Yet, even amidst such bedlam and disarray, I was often brought to a sudden standstill by the sight of my mother’s kindly, smiling face. Just one look would melt my heart and remind me of the greatest blessing of all. Her presence.
Without fail, I would thank God for this priceless gift. There are so many people who have no mother or who lost their mother years ago. What would they give for another five minutes together? We often only appreciate what we have when it’s gone, so let’s make a conscious decision today to give thanks for our blessings. Look deep inside yourself and question whether there’s anything you’re taking for granted? Perhaps it’s a person or even a situation? Or perhaps you’re so deep in worry that blessings are an unaffordable luxury? But giving thanks isn’t about a single event or the circumstances of our lives. It’s about a state of being. There’s always something to be thankful for if we’re prepared to look.
Why is being thankful to God so important? It enables us to express our gratitude for all we have. It gives us perspective. It reminds us we are not alone in our daily struggles and that there is hope for a better day. It gives us courage to press on with optimism rather than despair. But most importantly, it brings us closer to God.