I decided today to start a new tradition in our house, and that is to have someone in the family give a toast or a short speech before we eat. For the most part in my family, it's always been the traditional prayer and then “let's eat” – this year it will be different, below is the speech I wrote for today:
Today we are celebrating, just as the first settlers and the Pilgrim Fathers once did. They gave thanks that they had landed safely in a new country where they could worship as they pleased. They thanked God for their first Harvest.
It is hard for us to imagine their trials and tribulations. We who can fly around the world or send a man to the moon have no real conception of life aboard the sailing ships of yore. Many of us have only seen on television the persecution some of them were escaping. Their clothes, their language would all seem strange to us today.
Yet people themselves do not change much over the centuries. For all of us a celebration means food and laughter and good company, whether it's in Washington or Connecticut or somewhere in between. It is interesting too to think that the reasons for celebration are the same from one continent to another. Wherever we are we celebrate weddings and christenings and, of course, the harvest. For without it, even those without religious believe know their tables would be empty.
In his 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, President Washington beseeched the almighty God, asking that “he [God] pardon our national and other transgressions; – to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually…” he also asked that he “…grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”
Strange isn't it? To hear a politician asking the Lord to forgive us and our country for doing something wrong and then saying that we only deserve what he [God] feels we deserve.
I have from time to time found myself in situations in which I thought my life was forfeit. It was only then that I made the promise that for I to live I would be “Thankful for everyday” – Unfortunately since those times that has not always been the case. I too have often fallen into the trap of thinking about the things that I don't have, instead of the things that I do have.
There is a poem, which begins with the words,
“What is this life if full of care.
We have not time to stop and stare.”
It goes on to say that our life is poorer if we do not have time to see the squirrels in the grass and the stars in the sky. It is a poem about appreciation and so too is Thanksgiving.
As our ancestors were, we too are thankful for food and freedom. We should, though, also be thankful for the gift of appreciation itself.
As we sit down this Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by family and friends, let us try to remember to not only be thankful for the present, but mindful of the past.
I know I will.