Haims: Making new plans and traditions this Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving may be particularly important to our history. While the holiday is rooted in gratitude, family, shared feasts and war, we must not forget the many great sacrifices that gave way to the Thanksgiving celebration.
As so many times in our past, once again, our individual and national fortitude is being tested. Unfortunately, across our nation (and globe), people are suffering and living in strife. COVID-19 is taking lives, shuttering businesses and schools, fueling political discord, and challenging our way of life. So, what is there to be thankful for?
From the very first Thanksgiving, formidable challenges had to be overcome. Not only did cultural, ideological, and philosophical differences need to be overcome, but alliances had to be established. The culmination of agreements made between the settlers of the Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag Indians gave way to this first Thanksgiving celebration.
Throughout our American history, Thanksgiving has united, healed, and provided new beginnings. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation.
Within the proclamation, he called upon the nation to express thanks for the conclusion to the country’s Revolutionary War and the establishment of the constitutional government. Today, the last line of the proclamation may be quite relevant and be a reminder of this day’s intent and purpose:
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“To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”
In President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation of Thanksgiving he reminds the nation of two very meaningful and currently relevant issues. Ironically, the president began the proclamation by stating, “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come” and he ends it by stating, “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.”
As with President Washington and President Lincoln, we too are at war. Albeit, the war we are fighting is far more elusive and nefarious, we will unite and find new solutions.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, we need remind ourselves of our nation’s traditions and values. Many times in our past we have met fear and danger with individual and national fortitude. Our “new normal” may seem strange and foreign but, as we always have, we will create new futures in the face of adversity.
This year, Thanksgiving will look different. With travel restrictions and quarantines in place, the hustle and bustle of traveling to see family and friends, and the sharing of buffet feasts will be starkly different. This Thanksgiving may very well turn out to be a time to be thankful for the opportunity to slow down and be appreciative for what we have and the people we surround ourselves with.
This year, we may have the opportunity to have a smaller and more intimate Thanksgiving and connect with a coworker, a neighbor, a friend, or even another family who is taking the pandemic seriously. This year, we should focus on what we are grateful for and remind ourselves of the virtue of gratitude.
We must make big personal sacrifices to keep ourselves and our communities safe. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we can learn from the hardships of prior experiences. As such, we should recall the lessons of the Spanish Flu. While the numbers of cases waned in the summer of 1918 leaving many to falsely believe the virus had run its course, the second wave of the Spanish Flu was severe and death rates skyrocketed.
This Thanksgiving, be mindful of the choices you make and the potential ramifications to your own health and well-being, that of your loved ones, and for those within your community. Be save, find meaning, and enjoy what this Thanksgiving has to offer.