Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Thanksgiving Day is here. Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, this day doesn't always get its due. Since it's one of the few holidays that doesn't involve tangible gift giving other than a few hostess gifts and some hearty salutes to the chef, it often is relegated to the status of a lesser holiday. If truly observed as originally intended, it should be the best holiday of all since gratitude is the strongest mark of religion, of human love, of patriotism, of maturity, of social responsibility, and of mental health.
There are few of us who couldn't compile a long list of things, concepts, or people to whom we owe gratitude. High on my own list are family, home, country, blessings of the Gospel, health, a steady income, a car that functions well, my computer, good food, a telephone that connects me with loved ones, and the list could go on and on.
There is one blessing I wish to highlight this day. I am grateful to be an American. I have great love and respect for the European countries my ancestors once called home, but I am an American through and through. I love the freedom and opportunities this country provides. I love Americans' sometimes brash, but always positive "We can do it" attitude. I love the mountains and streams, the plains and deserts, and the beaches of this country. I love the cities and the small towns. I love the churches and temples with their spires reaching toward heaven. I love our varied population, pulled together from every other culture and ethnic grouping. I love our schools and universities with the American assumption that everyone is capable of learning. I love the American blending of social classes and our sense that anyone can fulfill their personal capabilities; that dreams can come ture.
On this day, I think we need to recall the words of a man who lost his life forty-six years ago while president of this great country. John F. Kennedy said, "My fellow Americans, ask not what our country can do for you---ask what you can do for our country." Too often we fail to appreciate our country and turn President Kennedy's statement around. Seeking freebies from our government is not a sign of gratitude. Doing the least we can do for ourselves is not gratitude. Destroying our country's values is not graditude. Making our country over into a mirror image of the countries we or our ancestors came from is not graditude. Complaining about our government and doing nothing to improve it is not graditude.
Showing gratitude for our country means being politically and socially involved. It includes respecting other viewpoints without relinquishing our own values. It includes worshipping God as our own consciences dictate and allowing others to do the same. Gratitude includes prayers of thanksgiving, a quiet thank you to someone who has shown us a kindness, and thoughtful acts of consideration toward others. It means personal acts of charity.
One way to show gratitude for this country is to remember the men and women who serve in our military, those who lie in military hospitals, and the families our service people left behind when they were deployed to distant lands. One simple way to let these people know we're proud to be Americans and say thank you for their scrfices for our freedom is to send a serviceman a Christmas card. If you don't know a service member personally you can still choose to do this. Send the card to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Be sure to sign the card and entitle it to Dear Service Member, Dear Veteran, or Dear Service Member Family. Don't include a letter or any kind of insert. And don't include personal information such as email or mail addresses on the card. You can write a brief note on the card. Oh, and no glitter. These cards are each individually scanned to ensure they are safe before being forwarded to military hospitals, families, and soldiers far from home.
If you wish to send telephone cards or gift certificates, don't send them to the above address. Check with http://www.aafes.com/ for information on how to send such items. And do it before December 7th.
I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, a scrumptious dinner, and a quiet moment to reflect on your blessings.